The Role Of Anxiety In Children

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Everyone experiences anxiety at one point in their lives. In fact, anxiety can even protect and help us. Just the right amount of anxiety keeps us focused and working hard when taking a test, and keeps us away from obvious dangers. But when we experience high levels of anxiety, we view nonthreatening events as dangerous, and that fear can make life more difficult.

All children experience some anxiety, which can be developmentally appropriate. We have all heard of childhood fears, such as being afraid of the dark, the boogieman and separating from parents on the first day of school. Many children have specific fears, and worry about school performance, health and social concerns (Muris, Meesters, Merckelbach, Sermon, & Zwakhalen, 1998; Vasey,
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CBT is considered to be a highly effective treatment for anxiety in children (Butler, Chapman, Foreman, Beck, 2006). The concept behind CBT is that thoughts, emotions and behaviors are all related to each other. Specifically, cognitions influence emotions and behaviors. CBT is an active therapy with interventions and specific goals where children and their parents learn active coping tools to manage symptoms.

John and his parents made an appointment with a psychologist who specialized in CBT. After a thorough developmental history and evaluation, the psychologist agreed that John had a diagnosis of Separation Anxiety Disorder. The psychologist worked with John and his parents. John learned how to cope with anxiety and his parents learned how to coach him through anxiety provoking situations. They were taught diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, how to identify automatic thoughts, how to change negative thoughts into coping statements, and how to slowly and systematically face feared situations. Soon John was back to his old self, enjoying his life, playing soccer, sleeping over his cousin 's house, and going to
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If you suspect that your child has an anxiety disorder, it is important to seek an evaluation from a mental health professional that specializes in children and is trained in CBT. The use of CBT to treat children with anxiety disorders has been supported in the literature. After a 16-week protocol, children with anxiety disorder given CBT had significantly less anxiety than the wait list control. The children who received CBT no longer met the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder and maintained that through a one year follow up. These same results have been replicated in others studies (Kendall, Flannery-Schroeder, Panichelli-Mindel, Southam-Gerow, Henin & Warman, 1997). Similarly, Flannery-Schroeder & Kendall (2000) randomly assigned children to treatment groups and found that 75% of individually treated children no longer met diagnostic criteria and maintained treatment gains at their 3-month
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