Did you know that since the start of the global Covid19 Pandemic, anxiety and depression in children has risen by more than 25% worldwide?
Recent studies conducted internationally, on over 80 0000 children, have shown that depression and anxiety amongst children and young teenagers have increased by more than 25% since the start of the Covid19 global pandemic – signalling a global health crisis in the youth.
Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at one time or another, for instance, when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test or making a big decision. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. The distress they cause is so great that it interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life.
“Since the start of the Covid19 pandemic, we are seeing many more clients with anxiety and anxiety disorders, the most alarming, however, are children as young as 8 years of age,” says Kerry Rudman from Brain Harmonics, a Neurofeedback organisation specialising in retraining brains.
“I am seeing children who are now experiencing fear of death, fears of being around people, as well as anxiety and loneliness around the loss of interaction with friends.”
How anxiety affects children
For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be crippling. Anxiety has no logic, you can tell yourself that the situation is ok but it’s really hard to stop the feeling of stress and anxiety in your body, It often builds up from your gut and makes your heart beat faster, some people start sweating, you feel so uneasy and can’t calm the feeling. It’s very hard to engage with others while you are experiencing this.
Children don’t always know what’s happening to them, they feel scared, nervous to engage with others, often stuttering to get words out, and they often cry or even have panic attacks. Anxiety is often felt as stomach aches. If this isn’t heard, then they can have serious outbursts or tantrums.
Symptoms of anxiety in children
Symptoms of anxiety in children can also include:
finding it hard to concentrate.
not sleeping or waking in the night with bad dreams.
not eating properly.
quickly getting angry or irritable and being out of control during outbursts.
constantly worrying or having negative thoughts.
feeling tense and fidgety, or using the toilet often.
The importance of empathy
“When children are anxious, our instinct is to help them feel better. However, often by protecting them from the thing that is upsetting them we can make the anxiety worse,” explains Kerry. “The best way to help children is teaching them coping mechanisms on how to deal with their anxiety when it occurs, with the aim of allowing them to feel less anxious!”
“I always encourage parents to show their children empathy, without agreeing with their fears. For example, you can say to your child, I know you are scared about this test, it’s ok to be scared, you can get through this, I will help you in every way I can. It’s usually more helpful to avoid leading questions like, are you afraid of the test, and rather ask open questions like, how are you feeling about the test?”
Different types of anxiety
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, these include panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, specific phobias, and generalised anxiety disorders.
Many brain researchers believe that anxiety disorders may be caused by problems in the functioning of brain circuits that regulate fear and other emotions. Studies have shown that severe or long-lasting stress can change the way nerve cells within these circuits transmit information from one region of the brain to another. Other studies have shown that people with certain anxiety disorders have changes in certain brain structures that control memories linked with strong emotions.
Anxiety disorders run in families, meaning they can be at least partly inherited from one or both parents, like the risk for heart disease. Moreover, certain environmental factors — such as a traumatic event, a global pandemic and country-wide lockdowns — can trigger an anxiety disorder in people who have an inherited susceptibility to developing the disorder.
Dealing with childhood anxiety
So how can you help your child? Neurofeedback is an incredibly helpful tool for anxiety and stress and it’s quick to balance those brainwave patterns in comparison to other modalities. The brain is trained to calm excessive theta or anxiety in the emotional sector of the brain while boosting the Alpha frequency which normalises serotonin naturally – this is your feel-good happy neurotransmitter.
Serotonin impacts every part of your body, from your emotions to your motor skills. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It’s the chemical that helps with sleeping, eating, and digesting. It also helps reduce depression and anxiety.