Anxiety is the most common presentation in children and young people and can present in a variety of different ways including fears and phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, self-harm, post traumatic stress, panic disorder.
All children and teenagers experience anxiety as part of their normal development and there are appropriate fears to feel at different developmental stages – e.g. a fear of the dark at three years old. Like depression, anxiety becomes a problem when it goes on for a long time and prevents the young person from enjoying their life. This is when anxiety can lapse into depression. About 25% 8 year old and 21.7% 17 year olds report with anxiety. It is more common in girls than boys.
Most people, including children and adults feel low occasionally. This is a normal reaction to events that are stressful or upsetting. It is even more common for teenagers to be affected by a range of moods, particularly feeling ‘blue’. However, sometimes these feelings continue and turn into clinical depression. Depression can affect children as young as eleven although it is less common in the younger age group. Clinical depression, requiring appropriate treatment is thought to affect around every 5 out of 100 teenagers.
- Heart racing
- Breathing changes
- Feeling sick
- Shaky legs and body
- Racing thoughts, usually scary
- Difficulty concentrating
- Constantly predicting the worst
- Over thinking
- Avoidance of doing things that create anxiety
- Getting into arguments and fights more often
- Checking behaviours
- Feeling frightened or panicky
- ‘Short fuse’ – getting irritable and angry easily
- Other people’s emotions affecting you more easily
- Sleep changes
- Appetite changes
- Slowed down
- Extreme tiredness
- Negative thoughts
- Concentration problems
- Lack of interest
- Slowed down thinking
- Lack of engagement
- Quiet and withdrawn
- May self-harm
- May misuse alcohol
- Feeling sad
- Feeling numb
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling overwhelmed
4 Steps to Change
Support the child or young person through the following Steps to Change
- Acknowledge that there is a problem and that it’s something that will benefit from early change. This may mean engaging the family and/or the school in the treatment plan.
Now Click No. 2
Break the cycle!
- Provide information on regular sleep, eating regularly, keeping regular activity and exercise – would they benefit from a course of exercise?
- Suggest they learn breathing techniques and start to get them to keep a diary of negative or self-defeating thoughts.
- Encourage keeping regular contact with friends. Make a referral as necessary.
Now Click No. 3
- Encourage them to keep a diary to note changes.
- Encourage them to keep talking – to friends, to someone who can help you – you may need to make a referral or meet up regularly yourself.
Now Click No. 4
Get back on track when you relapse
- Anxiety and depression take time to change but respond very well to psychological treatment. Encourage that they keep putting into practice the changes that they have been asked to implement and keep a copy of these changes in your records so that you can monitor. Make sure relapse is monitored and dealt with as soon as possible.
Link up with pastoral support at school.
Mind provide advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
0300 123 3393 (information)
Talk to us anythime you like, in your own way and off the record – about whatever’s getting to you.
116 123 (talk anytime)
0800 1111 (information, counselling)
The Mix provides support for under 25s – a free helpline for young people where you can talk to trained supporters about any issue that’s troubling you.
0808 808 4994 (counselling)
YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people.
0808 802 5544 (parent helpline)
And for anxiety – why not try any of the above or also
Anxiety Care UK
07552 877 219
03444 775 774
0844 967 4848