Anxiety Attacks in Children

Anxiety attacks in children are not uncommon, and they can be very worrying for parents. It is important to understand that some anxiety is normal for children – all children are afraid of something at some point. However, if a child starts avoiding certain everyday situations and social activities because of fear, than this is not normal; but rather it is a phobia. Full blown anxiety attacks are not normal for children, and you should seek professional help if your child is having these panic attacks.

During an anxiety attack, a child will experience intense fear, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, trembling, sweating, and a strong fear of losing control. Such attacks can hinder a child’s relationships, academic progress and social development.

If your child has anxiety attacks in response to particular situations (e.g. going to a party), you should be careful to downplay any future such events; in other words, do not make a big deal out of them or become too excited about them. Talk about these events as if it’s just another day.

Make sure the child has a healthy diet which is not high in sugars, sweeteners, salt or fat. Children should not be getting any caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Ensure that their diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and starchy wholemeal carbohydrates. The main fluid sources should be water and semi-skimmed milk.

Anxiety can result if the child is not having enough sleep at night. In turn anxiety often makes it harder to sleep, trapping the child in a vicious cycle. Make the sleeping environment as comfortable as possible, free of noise and light. Use black-out curtains if the child is sensitive to light.

It is extremely important that children are physically active. Kids are full of energy and if they spend all their free time in front of the television or playing computer games, they will have no ways to channel their energy and this will manifest itself as mental and physical tension. In addition, sports will help in the child’s social development. Obviously, pick a sport that the child likes, as making them do an activity which they dislike is counterproductive.

If the child has anxiety attacks to particular situations, try to explore the roots of such fears. Often they will be the result of early childhood trauma. For example, if the child had a near-drowning experience, they may develop a phobia of not only the sea, but water in general. In this example, having a bath can trigger an anxiety attack. A child psychologist can help your child explore the roots of their fears and will help them to overcome it.