Experts talk about how to identify, deal with anxiety in children

Published: Nov. 2, 2017 at 6:35 PM EDT
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(11/02/2017) - Change can trigger anxiety or depression in children and teens.

That change can be something small or big -- changes in schools, moving, changes in the home environment. But how can parents know when it's more than just a little stress?

"Anxiety is this overwhelming fear or feeling of things that may or may not happen. It is a real issue and people have to really work hard to overcome it," said Dr. Recco Richardson of the Hurley Mental Health Association.

Children young and old can be affected by anxiety, but the pressures grow and they move through school into higher grades. Richardson said he sees anxiety in high achieving, smart kids the most.

"Those go-getters that are very abstract and very focused and competitive, they're the ones that put the undue stress on themselves," he said. "They're the ones that are involved in 15 different clubs and volunteering for this."

Wendy McCombs, a counselor at Carman Ainsworth Middle School, said some worry over upcoming exams and school projects is normal. The trouble comes when anxiety becomes paralyzing and stops students from making progress.

Signs of troublesome anxiety include changes in appetite, clingyness, crying, irritability, skipping things they used to like, headaches, stomachaches, lack of sleep and openly questioning their future and safety.

"We teach and talk to the students about different coping skills," McCombs said. "We do breathing techniques with the students. We do have small group sessions. We talk about how do we make friends, how do we have conversations with people."

Medication is available, but Richardson said that is the last option. Instead, he encouraged parents to seek counseling for their children or talk with school administrators about services that may be available there.