Everyone feels anxious or worried at different times. But for some children and young people these anxious feelings can start to affect their daily activities. These feelings can start to interfere with their life and make it hard to do things such as going to school or doing things they used to enjoy. It can also affect how they get along with other people.
Anxiety is a common condition affecting people of all ages. In Australia, one in 14 children and young people (4 -17 years) experience an anxiety disorder.
Why do children and young people develop anxiety?
Some possible reasons may be:
- a history of anxiety in family member/s
- stressful life events
- changes in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain)
- individual coping style
- a combination of these factors.
People with anxiety can find it difficult to manage their feelings of worry, stress or fear.
Anxiety can affect your child’s physical and mental health (thoughts, behaviour and feelings). The symptoms of anxiety can depend on a number of factors and may pass quickly or stay for a longer period of time.
Some common ways anxiety affects children and young people include:
- fear and worry
- constantly in a bad mood
- mind racing or going blank, e.g. “I can’t control myself”
- unrealistic fear or worry, e.g. “I am going crazy”
- indecisiveness, e.g. “People are judging me”
- unwanted or intrusive thoughts.
- withdrawing from or avoiding feared situations
- urges to perform certain tasks to relieve worry
- easily startled or reassurance seeking
- becoming upset if there is a mistake or change to routine
- body sensations
- pounding heart, chest pain, shortness of breath
- dizziness, headaches
- nightmares, sweating, numbness, hot or cold flushes
- choking, dry mouth.
With the right treatment and support, children and young people can recover from anxiety. This process can include:
- seeing a health professional to work out the best ways to cope. These can include general practitioners (GPs), psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, mental health nurses and social workers.
- keeping physically healthy – doing physical activity, having a healthy diet, getting enough sleep
- having the support and understanding of family and friends to provide practical support, to talk with and to listen to your child
- having strong connections with your cultural heritage and community.
Treatment for anxiety generally aims to:
- provide an independent perspective
- help the child identify how they are feeling and why
- teach them ways to cope with and recover from anxiety
- help them achieve their goals
- link the child with other doctors or experts if necessary.
Useful phone numbers
- Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800, 24 hours, seven days a week
- Parentline: 1300 30 1300, 8am to 10pm, seven days a week
Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS)
Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service
Level 10, 199 Grey Street, South Brisbane QLD 4101
PO Box 5492, West End QLD 4101
t: 07 3310 9444
In an emergency, always call 000.
If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Queensland Government. 2016. Anxiety. Accessed March 1, 2017. www.qld.gov.au/youth/health-looking-after-yourself/anxiety/
Beyondblue. 2017. Stats and facts. Accessed March 1, 2017. www.youthbeyondblue.com/footer/stats-and-facts
Mayo Clinic. 2014. Generalized anxiety disorder. Accessed March 1, 2017. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/basics/definition/con-20024562