We often dismiss a child’s anxiety as a temporary phase that they will soon outgrow. However, when anxiety reaches a level to which it hampers your child’s life, parents should seek medical help. Left untreated, serious anxiety may only get worse, not better. Eventually, as a coping mechanism, the child may resort to avoiding any situations they find uncomfortable. Anxiety in our society is a big issue. In the United States alone, 40 million Americans are said to be suffering from anxiety. Meanwhile here in the UK, it is more than 15%.
Anxiety is a normal response to stress and your child may experience a surge of adrenaline as a natural coping mechanism under such conditions. However, there’s a problem when your child’s reaction is out of proportion to the current situation. This is when they may exhibit some or most of these symptoms like:
Is medication necessary?
Many doctors prescribe anti-depressants to both children and adults to combat anxiety. However, the problem is that when a course is abruptly stopped it may lead to adverse reactions including reverting back to their high levels of anxiety.
Fortunately, there’s a far more effective alternative to medication when dealing with children’s anxiety. Studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a better treatment for reducing severe anxiety symptoms. In addition, children learned how to manage and control their anxiety.
About Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CBT focuses on helping your child through adopting correct thinking or behaviour, which in turns strengthens their emotional outlook.
How CBT can help your child
The CBT therapist will first focus on your child’s behaviour. The goal is to help the child correct any avoidant behaviour. One technique they use is:
Under this method, children are exposed to scenarios that trigger their anxiety attacks. The approach will require incremental steps and a safe environment. Once they get used to the triggers, their anxiety reduces. The next step forward is to then take on more stressful scenarios.
Instead of talking, a therapist uses exposure to explore the root cause of your child’s anxiety. The idea is to change your child’s mindset to overcome their behaviour. This technique can work on several kinds of anxieties like:
Therapy starts by teaching both children and parents to think about anxiety as a separate issue in their life. It is important to realise that fear prevents your children from enjoying their life. For example, your child may have problems:
Once your children understand how anxiety works, their therapist can then help them face their fears.
Some parents may object to subjecting their children to anxiety exposure. However, CBT therapists argue that helping children face their fears helps them to tolerate or ignore anxiety altogether. In addition, exposure is seen as being slow and systematic. So instead of basing the approach on reacting, the technique aims to reassure your child or change their pattern of behaviour away from escaping, avoiding, or engaging in rituals like constant hand washing.
To help your child face their challenges, therapists have designed a “fear hierarchy”. Children are discouraged from seeing things in black or white, like avoiding touching a pet or crossing a road. Instead, they are asked to evaluate their anxiety based on a level of difficulty.
For example, children with fears of touching dirt, are asked to scale the difficulty of touching soil with their fingers from 1-10. The scale can look something like this:
Scenario Difficulty level
Writing the word “garbage” 3
I will touch some garbage 5
I will pick up dirt 7
I will play in the mud 9
By rating each scenario, your child can see that some are manageable and others that are not as extreme. By exposing a child to mild anxiety attacks and increment that with each scenario, their fear can subside.
Aside from CBT, hypnosis is an effective form of treatment to help your child deal with anxiety attacks bringing:
How hypnotherapy works
Whilst your child is in a trance-like state, the therapist can provide a “posthypnotic suggestion”. In this state, your child’s mind is open to suggestion, allowing the therapist to suggest something that will help your child to deal with their issue of anxiety.
While hypnotherapy is effective in treating anxiety, it’s viewed as a complementary treatment to CBT. However, if your therapist is relying solely on hypnosis to treat your child’s anxiety, the effect is likely to be similar to those of meditation.
Whilst in a hypnotic state, the child’s anxieties and phobias are addressed. So if your child has fear of germs, the therapist will help them visualise the first time they were afraid of touching “dirty objects”. They will then use a technique called hypnoprojectives, where the child visualises their past events as they would like to see it. They will then see themselves in the future feeling confident whenever they touched some garbage or dirt.
The next level of treatment
Your child’s anxiety is considered severe if they:
The hypnosis treatment for mild to moderate cases may take 8-12 sessions. However, if they’re also taking medication, the therapy may take longer.
A child’s anxiety is not something a parent should ignore. If not dealt with, their anxiety may worsen or stay with them into adulthood as a recurrent troubling condition. Medications may work but CBT or hypnotherapy is proven to be a more effective form of treatment. Another upshot is that hypnotherapy comes with no side effects. In addition, it will help your child to learn how to manage stress, which is a valuable life skill in itself.
Leigh Adley is a qualified clinical hypnotherapist/psychotherapist based in Milton Keynes. Her site, Set
Your Mind Free, specialises in hypnosis for anxiety, addiction, weight problems and other conditions.
The information provided in this blog post is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed. This blog is not meant to be used, nor should it be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical problem please consult your healthcare provider. All about a Mummy is in no way responsible for any specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision and are not liable for any damages or negative consequences.
Artist, Baker and Blogger. Mum to my two beautiful, cheeky girls. Muddling my way through parenthood with equally cheeky Husband.