When do children have fear and anxiety?
- Anxiety, worry or fear can be normal and often it does not last long in children
- Stranger anxiety and separation anxiety are two common fears that young children will experience. It is part of normal development.
- Stranger Anxiety
- Refers to the fear reactions infants experience when approached by unfamiliar adults.
- Occurs by age 4 – 5 months and intensifies at age 12 months
- Separation Anxiety
- Refers to the child’s reaction to the departure of the main care-giver
- Factors affecting stranger and separation anxiety:
- Child’s age
- Nature of situation
- Past experiences and
- Quality of the child-carer attachment
When should help be sought?
- It is advisable to get help when anxiety, worry or fear:
- Causes marked distress
- Affects the child’s functioning at home or school
- Is prolonged
What are the types of anxiety disorders found?
Common types of anxiety disorder include:
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- Phobic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Panic Disorder
How can fear or anxiety be manifested?
- Unusual Behaviour e.g.:
- Avoidance of activities e.g. family outings
- Avoidance of place e.g. playground
- Avoidance of person e.g. teacher
- Distress behaviour e.g. before going to sleep
- Unusual clinging behaviour
- Change in habits e.g. starting to have thumb sucking
- Depressed Mood / Emotion / Thinking :
- Feeling worried or fearful
- Excessive anticipation of negative events or disaster, e.g.
- Examination failure
- Physical complaints :
- Choking sensation
- Shortness of breath
Why should we be concerned?
Fear and anxiety may lead to :
- Interference with normal progress of growing up
- Interference with functions e.g.
- Adversely affecting relationship with family members, friends or teachers
- May lead to more serious behavioral problems e.g. conduct disorder
- May lead to substance abuse to get comfort e.g. tobacco, alcohol, drugs
- Risk of self harm
- Risk of suicide
What can be done to help the child?
- Listen to the child and understand his behavior
- Give encouragement and praise
- Help the child see his personal strength
- Help the child accept his weaknesses and how to deal with them
- Help the child use relaxation technique e.g. breathing exercises, visualization of calming scenery
- Provide psychological support so the child can :
- Learn to think positively
- Deal positively with changes, fear, anger, frustrations etc
- Develop positive social skills e.g. assertiveness
- Provide counseling to the :
- Individual child
- Child’s family members
- School – inform the school about his/her problems so the school staff is supportive
- Give medication as advised by a psychiatrist
What can be done to prevent excessive fear or anxiety?
- Help the child develop necessary emotional and social skills
- Help the child deal with life events positively
- Provide a warm, responsive and trusting relationship
- Provide child with warm, harmonious environment
- Ensure predictable failures
Where shall one go for further support?
Following professionals may be helpful
- School counselor
- Doctors at local health centres
- General practitioners
|Last Reviewed||:||20 April 2012|
|Writer||:||Dr. Aminah binti Kassim|
|Reviewer||:||Dr. Nor ‘Izam Bt. Md Alias|