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- What are the best strategies to help anxious children?
- What’s the most effective way to treat children with anxiety?
- How can I cope with an anxious child?
- All work and no play: Why your kids are anxious
- How to discipline a child with anxiety
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- Should my anxious child go on medication?
The childhood mental health field is gaining more exposure these days. As people see the need to help children with struggles such as anxiety, more research and treatments are becoming available. A good doctor or therapist will stay on top of cutting edge treatments, but parents need to do their own research as well, in order to decide what methods or medications are best for their child. Here is a look into some of the latest and most effective methods of treating children with anxiety, including medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a great alternative to medication (Tiffany Cook)
When a child’s anxiety seriously impedes their ability to live their life and starts to profoundly affect the overall life of his or her family, it is time to get help. Many times, medication is the default mindset of many to treat anxiety. However, these medicines can often make things worse, especially after prolonged use, because they contain substances that alter mood and perception and have been known to lead to addiction.
Over the last 20 years, there has been a new method that has been heavily researched and has been hailed as the most effective way to treat symptoms of severe anxiety in your child. This method is called cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. The premise of CBT is how we think and act affects the way we feel so if we change our mindset and our behavior, then our emotions will get better as well.
One of the main techniques of CBT is called exposure therapy. During exposure therapy, a child learns to unlearn avoidance behavior. They are purposely exposed to things that trigger their anxiety in incremental steps and in a safe environment so that they become accustomed to responding in a more healthy and productive manner to the trigger. They start with the triggers that trigger the least anxiety in your child then work their way up to more powerful triggers as your child learns to respond appropriately to each trigger.
Early treatment for anxiety is important (Lesley Scott)
As anxiety can become debilitating if left untreated, it is important to get help as early as possible.
Sometimes medication or supplements may be prescribed for anxiety, as these may reduce the symptoms.
CBT is very effective for reducing symptoms of severe anxiety. CBT works by changing thinking that is distorted and behavior that is dysfunctional. In young children, the initial focus is on “unlearning” avoidant behavior. By slowly exposing a child to their triggers in a safe setting they become accustomed to them and the anxiety lessens. Children are also given the skills required to control their anxiety rather than allowing it to control them.
There are other therapies that can be paired with CBT for anxiety (Amanda Whittington)
Early detection and treatment can have positive, lasting effects for children with anxiety and there are some new therapies that show promise. One effective strategy is to implement family based therapy to prevent anxiety in children who had anxious parents. This can be paired with medication and CBT.
Another treatment that has potential to help children with anxiety is attention-bias modification. This is based on the idea that due to different hard-wiring in the brain, children and adults with anxiety are overly aware of the potential of threats in their environment. Attention-bias modification helps these individuals become desensitized to these benign threats. Overall, the most effective treatment for children with anxiety is to find the balance that works for the individual child, whether it is medication, CBT, or a combination of treatments.
The best treatment for anxiety is the one that helps your child (Kereth Harris)
Anxiety is not a one size fits all condition. The best method to use with your child is the method that enables them to lead as full a life as possible. For us, it was to medicate and use cognitive behavioral therapy to support the development of strategies to cope with anxiety as it presented. There is no right or wrong answer, but any treatment plan should be developed with the support of a medical practitioner or a specialist in the area to ensure your child’s overall health is being monitored.