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7860 Mission Center Ct, Suite 209
San Diego, CA, 92108

858.354.4077

At The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, our psychologists have years of experience. Unlike many other providers, our clinicians truly specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and related problems. Our mission is to apply only the most effective short-term psychological treatments supported by extensive scientific research. We are located in Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, and Mission Valley.

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Read our award-winning blogs for useful information and tips about anxiety, stress, and related disorders.

 

Filtering by Tag: childhood anxiety disorders

Let’s Talk About Anxiety

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

Anxiety is a hot topic these days. It’s all over the news, and apparently it is on the rise. In the age of information and technology, we are constantly bombarded with doom and gloom news alerts, including reminders that on top of everything else, we are plagued with increasing anxiety. Eventually, these reminders can get exhausting and may even contribute to the anxiety that is apparently so prevalent in the first place.

Image source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/poems-read-anxiety

Image source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/poems-read-anxiety

Of course, there are benefits to all this conversation around anxiety: we have a better understanding of what anxiety is and as a result we may be able to understand and empathize with those who are struggling better. But it’s important to be careful that we don’t pathologize all anxiety, and that we don’t lose sight of the strength that exists in those who truly do have anxiety disorders.

Anxiety: Natural Response to Stress or Disorder?

The way we talk about anxiety today, it is easy to believe that all anxiety is inherently bad and forget that it’s our natural response to threat or danger. We actually need anxiety to survive; it prepares our body to respond appropriately in the face of danger. However, our physiological experience of anxiety developed back when the regular dangers humans faced included running from large, sharp toothed predators. So when we are experiencing the fight-or-flight response before a big exam or presentation, it may not feel particularly adaptive. But despite the discomfort that comes with anxiety, it is natural when it is experienced as the result of a particular situation or problem, when it is proportional to the stressor, and when it only lasts until the situation is resolved (ULifeline, 2016). Anxiety, though often painful, is an important and adaptive part of the human experience.

Image source: aconsciouslifenow.com

Image source: aconsciouslifenow.com

Though originally an adaptive response, anxiety does have the potential to be harmful when it manifests as “constant, chronic and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress, disturbs your social life and interferes with classes and work” (Active Minds, 2016). In other words, anxiety is no longer helpful when it begins to appear when there is no actual threat present. When a person experiences anxiety but has no threat to respond to, what happens? They begin avoiding situations that are actually safe. Their mind and body are telling them that safe situations are threatening, which can have a debilitating effect. When anxiety becomes disordered, it arises unexpectedly, is overwhelming, and, rather than catalyzing adaptive behavior in the face of a threat, often fosters avoidance of everyday situations (Here to Help, 2016).

Image source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/anxiety-photos-katie-crawford_n_7292548.html

Image source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/anxiety-photos-katie-crawford_n_7292548.html

So what is the takeaway? Anxiety is uncomfortable, but it helps us respond to threat, uncertainty, trouble, or feelings of unpreparedness (Active Minds, 2016). Anxiety becomes a problem (and possibly a disorder) when it comes seemingly out of nowhere and in the absence of a stressor proportional to the response, and it interferes with functioning in some way.

Recognizing Strengths as well as Struggles

There is no denying that feeling anxious is not pleasant. It can range from uncomfortable to unbearable. For those with anxiety disorders, anxiety is unpleasant on a whole new level; it can be completely overwhelming and paralyzing. It is hard to describe how out of control one can feel in the middle of a panic attack, or how draining it is to go through the day (week, month, or year) flooded with anxiety.

But in the midst of this struggle, it’s important to remember that anxiety doesn’t own you. It may be a part of you, and it may influence your life in various and profound ways. But anxiety does not determine who you are. A diagnosis does not define you. You are not a disorder. You are not weak, powerless, or alone.

Image source: http://quotesgram.com/from-brene-brown-quotes/

Image source: http://quotesgram.com/from-brene-brown-quotes/

Acknowledging the pain anxiety can bring is so important, but it can also be helpful to recognize that struggling with anxiety may also foster certain strengths. According to Dr. Tracy Foose (2013), trait anxiety is associated with being “highly conscientious, honest, detail oriented, performance driven, socially responsible, [and] self-controlled.” Furthermore, learning to cope with anxiety can push us towards an increased self-awareness and knowledge of ourselves. Because it is so uncomfortable, it can motivate us to grow and change parts of ourselves or our lives that may not be serving us. And once we learn that we can move through the discomfort of anxiety, we often feel stronger and more confident in ourselves knowing that we have the fortitude to move through something so profoundly difficult (Sutherland, 2011).

Finally, if you do feel like anxiety is controlling your life, you don’t have to stay stuck in this space. Not only can anxiety teach you to embrace vulnerability and reach out for support from loved ones, but therapy offers very effective treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can teach valuable coping skills, and can help to change your relationship to anxiety. Nothing will ever take anxiety away completely, but we wouldn’t want that because without anxiety, we wouldn’t survive. But therapy can help us learn that even in the worst throws of anxiety, we will survive, and even thrive.

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

If you or someone you love might benefit from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or biofeedback for anxiety, depression, stress, or PTSD, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at csamsandiego@gmail.com.

References:

Active Minds. (2016). NSOD: Difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder.  Retrieved from: http://www.activeminds.org/component/content/article/512-nsod-difference-between-normal-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder

Foose, T. (2013, Feb. 19). Positive traits seen in anxiety disorders. SF Gate. Retrieved from: http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Positive-traits-seen-in-anxiety-disorders-4291474.php

Here to Help. (2016). What’s the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder?  Retrieved from: http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/ask-us/whats-the-difference-between-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder

Sutherland, M. (2011). The Benefits of Anxiety. Retrieved from: https://willowtreecounselling.ca/articles/the-benefits-of-anxiety/

ULifeline. (2016). Anxiety vs. anxiety disorders. Retrieved from: http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/439-anxiety-vs-anxiety-disorders

DEALING WITH BACK-TO-SCHOOL ANXIETY IN YOUNG CHILDREN

Jill Stoddard

a guest blog post originally posted on SitterCity.com

As parents prepare their children for the school year to begin, it’s easy to get swept up in all the details: Are the school medical forms filled out? What’s left on the school supplies list? Have you found an after-school sitter yet?

Ticking off all the items on your family’s back-to-school checklist is important, but it’s equally important to pay attention to your child’s behavior during the weeks leading up to school. Anxiety about advancing to a new grade or starting a new school is normal; after all, people of all ages need time to adjust to a new situation. Here are a few ways you can turn those back-to-school jitters into excitement.

(Please note: If you suspect that something more than garden-variety jitters is going on, call your pediatrician who can refer you to a child psychologist for a consultation.)

Get some sleep.

A well-rested kid is a happy kid. While it’s fun to stay up late and sleep in during the summer, it’s important to get bedtime on track at least a week before school starts. Kids can feel grouchy, upset or fearful when they’re sleep deprived. Start practicing normal school day wakeups a week or two in advance so they get used to their new schedule.

Attend the open house. 

Schools often host an open house a couple weeks before classes begin. Be sure to clear your schedule for it — it’s an invaluable chance for your child to meet their new teacher and start feeling comfortable with them, as well as a chance to check out their new classroom.

Plan play dates. 

If you’re new to a school, open houses are also a chance for kids to mingle with their new classmates a little with the safety of you still being around, so they’re not making as many introductions on the first day of school. As you chat with the other parents, see if any of them are open to the idea of a play date, even if it’s just meeting up informally at the playground so your kids can continue to get to know each other.

Do a practice run. 

If your child is starting at a new school, take the time to do a dry run of the morning commute. On one of the mornings they’re waking up early, be sure to get them dressed and out the door on time, too. Practice walking or driving to school — whatever your normal commute will entail. If your child is taking a bus to school for the first time, drive along the bus’s route and answer any questions they might have about what school buses are like.

Eat at a cafeteria. 

Is this the first time your child will be eating a hot lunch at school? Go to a cafeteria-style restaurant to help them practice holding a tray, waiting in line, selecting from multiple options and sitting at a bench-style table. Even if you’re planning to pack a bag lunch, it’s doesn’t hurt to get your child used to a cafeteria-like environment.

Visit the library.

It’s time to do a little back-to-school reading! There are plenty of great children’s stories that address back-to-school anxiety. A few worth checking out are First Day Jitters by Julie Dannenberg; The Night Before Kindergarten and The Night Before First Grade, both by Natasha Wing; The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn; and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate. Talk to your librarian to see if they have any other recommendations as well.

Take care of the details.

Pay attention to little things that will help make the first week of school smooth sailing. Have them pick out some new clothes and a new backpack for the first few days of school so there are no morning wardrobe meltdowns. If they’re bringing their lunch, plan out a few of their favorite meals ahead of time. Create a morning “launch pad” for backpacks and coats. These may seem like little things, but they can add up to a lot of stress for a child, and they’re easy to prepare for in advance.

Listen to them.

Keep those lines of communication open! Ask you’re child if they’re excited for school, what subject they’re looking forward to most and what friends they’re excited to see. If they’re experiencing social anxiety this is a good time to start talking it out and reassuring them. Being understanding and supportive is the most important thing you can do to ensure your little one has a great back-to-school experience.

Anxiety in Children

Jill Stoddard

 

Have you noticed that your child seems to be experiencing a significant amount of anxiety? Learn more about the anxiety disorders that can develop at a young age and the support that is available. If you would like to seek the help of a professional, contact us to schedule an appointment with our child anxiety specialist now.

 

Childhood Anxiety Disorders

 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Learn more about GAD.

Things to look out for:

·      Excessive worry about a variety of things in your child’s life

·      Perfectionism and self-criticism

·      Constant need for approval or reassurance

 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Learn more about OCD.

Things to look out for:

·      Obsessions: Experiencing unwanted and intrusive thoughts

·      Compulsions: Repeatedly perform rituals and/or routines in order to ward off anxious feelings

 

Panic Disorder

Learn more about panic disorder and panic attacks.

Things to look out for:

·      Panic/anxiety attacks that come on for no reason or out of the blue

·      If your child is concerned about or afraid of having another panic attack in the future

 

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Learn more about PTSD.

Things to look out for:

·      Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or life-threatening event

·      Intense fear/anxiety

·      Emotional numbness

·      Easily irritable

·      Avoidance of places, people or activities

 

 

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Learn more about separation anxiety disorder here.

Things to look out for:

·      Your child is slightly older (common in ages seven to nine)

·      Unable to be separated from loved ones or takes significantly longer to calm down compared to other children

·      Experiences extreme homesickness/misery at being separated from loved ones

 

Social Anxiety Disorder

Learn more about social anxiety disorder.

Things to look out for:

·      Intense fear or anxiety related to social interactions

·      Anxiety about performance and activities

·      Extreme shyness or inhibition

·      Difficulty making new friends or speaking with peers

 

Selective Mutism

Visit online: Selective Mutism Group

Things to look out for:

·      Refusing to speak in situations that make your child anxious

·      Standing motionless/expressionless

·      Avoiding eye contact, chewing/twirling hair, turning heads

 

Specific Phobias

Learn more about phobias.

Things to look out for:

·      Intense irrational fear of a specific object or situation (such as animals, storms, blood, needles, medical procedures, etc.)

 

 

Treatments Offered at CSAM

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an empirically supported treatment that focuses on modifying problematic thoughts & behaviors that contribute to & maintain emotional problems like anxiety, stress, & depression. Like traditional forms of therapy, CBT emphasizes a warm, safe, & empathic therapeutic environment. CBT is different from some approaches in that it focuses on present-day problems & learning skills to overcome symptoms. It teaches children to identify thoughts & behaviors that are keeping your child stuck, so your child may develop more adaptive ways for navigating life.

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy is an empirically supported treatment that focuses on reducing experiential avoidance and accepting internal experiences (thoughts and feelings) in the service of living a valued, vital, meaningful existence.  Mindfulness, metaphors, and experiential exercises play a central role in ACT.

 

Biofeedback

Biofeedback is an empirically supported treatment that focuses on balancing the nervous system. Biofeedback is shown to be extremely effective at helping patients reduce anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain (including migraines), increase focus and attention, and reduce hyper-vigilance commonly experienced after trauma.

 

How Can I Respond to My Child?

 

ADAA provides the following suggestions in their article “Tips for Parents and Caregivers”

Source: http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/tips-parents-and-caregivers

 

Here are things you can do at home to help your child manage his or her anxiety disorder:

 

Pay attention to your child’s feelings.

Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation or event.

Recognize and praise small accomplishments.

Don’t punish mistakes or lack of progress.

Be flexible and try to maintain a normal routine.

Modify expectations during stressful periods.

Plan for transitions (For example, allow extra time in the morning if getting to school is difficult).

Keep in mind that your child’s anxiety disorder diagnosis is not a sign of poor parenting. It may add stress to family life, however. It is helpful to build a support network of relatives and friends

Resources:

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA

www.ADAA.org

 



Are you interested in scheduling an appointment with our child specialist? If you'd like to speak with a professional at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management for help with anxiety, please click here.

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