Many children exhibit behavioral and/or attentional problems. Some of these symptoms are age appropriate and disappear as the child matures, while others require further attention from professionals. However, when it comes to childhood mental health, school personnel, pediatricians, therapists, and other professionals are often quick to label a child simply from pure observation, rather than understanding the symptoms from the child’s experience. Unlike popular belief, anxiety, rather than ADHD or autism, is the most prevalent mental health disorder in children. Studies indicate that 13 out of every 100 children ages 9 through 17 experiences some kind of anxiety disorder. Furthermore, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 25% of 13-18 year olds will experience an anxiety disorder during their adolescence. Since parents are often left with confusion from all of the various childhood anxiety disorders, it’s crucial for parents to be well informed in order to advocate for appropriate services for their child.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the result when a person perceives danger. Anxiety, in and of itself, is not unhealthy or abnormal. This is an adaptive, innate response that keeps you surviving when faced with real threats. The problem occurs when a person misinterprets innocent situations, objects, or people as harmful. Whenever you perceive a threat, the brain’s alarm system responds and floods your body with hormonal chemicals to help you quickly react via fighting or fleeing. However, this natural “fight-or-flight” response cannot filter the difference between a real danger or a false alarm. It simply reacts to whatever threat you perceive. Anxiety becomes a disorder when a person consistently misinterprets these false alarms as real dangers. As a result, the anxiety sufferer perpetually avoids the falsely perceived threats and/or overreacts with fearful responses.
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