Health Matters: Coping with Anxiety in Children

Without seeing a professional, children with anxiety may find their symptoms hard to comprehend.

Feeling worried to an extent is normal for any age.

I spoke with an Essentia Health child psychologist about how to differentiate between feeling anxious and the disorder.

Different types of anxiety affects all walks of life.

“The most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder where they are just anxious in general where they have a lot of what I would call ‘what if’ thinking,” said Dr. Jodi Boerger Wilder, a psychologist with Essentia Health.    

It also includes children.

Even at a young age, anxiety can interrupt day to day life.

“What if this happens? Being overly worried about lots of different things. Not being able to not think about a specific worry, it interrupts their sleep, it interrupts their ability to concentrate,” said Dr. Boerher Wilder.

She says typically children can feel better when told it’s going to be okay.

“Children with anxiety are not able to be reassured,” she explains.

You can listen to see what types of things your child is worrying about.

“The child with an anxiety disorder really needs to be able to develop some skills to be able to calm themselves and be able to identify what is a rational fear, something we should be worried about,” said Dr. Boerher Wilder.

She also says it may just look like a behavioral issue.

“If we see a child that’s kicking and screaming and won’t get out of the car or something, it looks like the child is just being difficult when it in fact is anxiety.”

With professional help, the behavior problems can go away too.

“I do think somebody who’s trained to teach children some of those cognitive behavioral skills to help them learn how to identify the thoughts and the feelings is really necessary at that point if the child is really struggling.”

If anxiety is not treated Dr. Boerger Wilder says it most likely will stay with the child as they get older.

Next week on Health Matters, we’ll tell you about treatments and why your child’s mental health should be taken seriously.