Anxiety disorder is a mental illness characterised by excessive worry and irrational fears. These feelings are typically accompanied by panic attacks and avoidant behaviours that may disrupt the individual’s relationships, education and occupational functioning. It is disabling and much like other physical health concerns, it requires recuperation and professional treatment.
Anxiety affects everyone, even children and teens. In fact, many anxieties start in childhood. Separation anxiety, for instance, prevents the child from being separated from their parents and caregivers, leading to social isolation and over-dependency. Social anxiety is another kind in this spectrum of disorders. It is often mistaken for shyness but unlike shy kids who need a little warming up before interacting with others, children social anxiety disorder can experience an intense fear whenever they are in social situations, feeling as though they are judged, criticised, and scrutinised by others. Phobia, on the other hand, is a disorder triggered by a specific object or situation while General Anxiety which is free-floating, undefined, and overwhelming.
Some anxiety disorders are undiagnosed but just because the symptoms don’t make up a complete diagnosis, it doesn’t mean that it can’t count as a serious mental health concern. This is something parents, teachers, and adults should be cautious about especially when they are living with children and teens that suffer from an anxiety disorder. Their fears feel real and thus should be treated like it. It’s not just “all in their head” and it most certainly will not go away by just “thinking positive”. Every little thing eventually turns into something grave if not immediately addressed, so you should treat mental health issues with urgency. When met with someone who suffers from anxiety, here are some things you can do to help.
- Validate their feelings. Assure them that they are not overreacting and that their fears are real.
- Don’t force them to change their anxious or fearful behaviours. Wait until they are ready.
- Constantly talk to them about the likelihood that their feared situation or objects will harm them. Show evidence-based research and allow them to digest the information at their preferred pace.
- Encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle to keep their anxieties at bay.
- Teach them breathing exercises and mindfulness relaxation techniques to supplement with therapy.
Whether you are a healthcare professional, parent or counsellor, you need to learn the basics of mental health and other efforts that shed light on illnesses that are not visible to the naked eye. As someone older, you are the youth’s refuge. They rely on you to help them make sense of what they feel and assist in their healing. If you can be certified in Mental Health First Aid, much better. It’s an added resource that you can use not only to guide distressed teens but also respond in mental health emergencies such as panic attacks, seizures, and suicidal behaviours.
To learn more about mental health and Mental Health First Aid, you can visit our website at whsandtrainingcompliance.com.au.