Anxiety: Important Signs Every Parent Should Know
by Patrick McGrath, Ph.D.
anxiety is the third largest psychological problem in the United
States today, according to the National Institute on Mental Health.
The debilitating condition affects 5.3 million Americans in any
given year. And, it hits children - hard.
problem is that social anxiety is often overlooked - or mistaken
for other conditions such as shyness, a personality disorder or
the school year progresses, more and more children will start to
exhibit signs of social anxiety. Children with social anxiety often
fight their parents tooth and nail to stay home from school. Some
young children will kick, scream and bite - just to get out of going
to school. The anxiety they feel in school far outweighs any potential
consequence from their parents.
sign of social anxiety is avoiding activities that require personal
interaction. For example, a child might spend the lunch hour in
the library with a book, instead of in the cafeteria with schoolmates.
Or, a child might go to class but never raise her hand to participate
in class discussions.
can be an indicator of school-based anxiety. Some children will
choose to fail, instead of receiving any grade other than an "A".
These students may be very bright and have the ability to learn
and recall the information that is presented. Yet, they would rather
not do any schoolwork and fail, instead of receiving a "B"
or "C". This failure is not always due to stubbornness,
laziness, or a sudden lack of comprehension - it may be due to anxiety.
or adolescents may be "ill" on days that are anxiety provoking,
such as exam days or days when they have to give a presentation
to the class. Or, they may avoid taking certain classes that require
interaction and intense evaluation. Students have changed majors
in college to avoid certain class requirements such as making speeches
for fear of being embarrassed or humiliated in public.
your child appears to be experiencing school-based anxiety, be sure
to meet with the school counselor to discuss your observations.
Utilize any tools that the counselor may offer to reintegrate your
child back into the school environment.
school refusal, the counselor may suggest setting up your home like
a classroom. If a student develops a pattern of refusing to go to
school, follow a typical school day at home. Get your child out
of bed and have him work on school material at a table or desk.
There is to be no playing, no snacks, and no television. Have your
child eat lunch within the same time period as he would at school.
Do not allow for extracurricular activities for the day - if your
child was too ill to go to school, then she is too ill to play in
the band concert as well.
you need further assistance, mental health therapists can provide
many helpful behavioral skills. For example, exposure and response
prevention is one type of therapy that may help your child to slowly
return to situations that have provoked a great deal of anxiety.
Your child will learn skills for coping with the event and managing
his anxiety by slowly facing her fears and not avoiding them or
needing a great deal of reassurance to complete tasks.
is often an underlying reason for academic problems, refusing to
go to school, and other related social issues. The earlier you deal
with the anxiety, the easier it will be to treat. Your child doesn't
have to suffer with this fear and isolation. Seek help as soon as
possible - it's only a phone call away.
McGrath, PhD is Clinical Manager of Anxiety Services for Linden
Oaks Hospital at Edward. For more information about Linden Oaks'
comprehensive mental health services for children and adolescents,
please call (630) 646-8800 and for Anxiety Services, call (630)