Monday 7 January 2019

Anxiety. How can it manifest?


It's one of those tricky issues that is quite common in society and yet it seems to be some what of a taboo subject to talk about.

And it is all due to the fact that anxiety is a hidden illness.

Some people in society seem to believe that if they can't see the illness then it doesn't exist. This makes it extremely difficult for adults to talk openly about their anxious feelings. Now imagine how difficult it is for children to talk about their anxious feelings, when unfortunately, some people simply don't believe that children are capable of suffering from anxiety.

Children suffer from anxiety? How can they? Children have nothing to worry about. Children, at times, have a lot that they worry about. 

Friendship woes. Pressure at school to perform academically to a high standard, thanks NAPLAN. They may have issues at home that are affecting them. Peer pressure seems to happening at a younger age. Being bullied by their peers. They may take on the worries that their friends have.

Some children may express to their parents, teachers or peers that they are worried, others may not. O is one of those who will not tell a soul that she is worried or anxious. Partly because she is still learning how to recognise the internal feelings of her anxiety. And partly because she doesn't want to burden others with her worries.

The number of times that we, as parents, have been told that O can't possibly suffer from anxiety issues is staggering. And this is because she doesn't present as having anxiety.

You see, in children, anxiety can present in a number of different ways.

O's anxiety is sneaky, it doesn't often look like worry. O's anxiety manifests itself in a variety of different ways, and it can differ from day to day.

So what should you be on the look out for? Read on!

O's anxiety sounds like physical complaints …. "My head is sore," "My tummy hurts," "My heart is beating too fast," "My throat hurts when I swallow," "My muscles in my legs hurt." This makes it difficult at school when she presents at the sick bay and appears to need to go home due to illness. We now have a flow chart for O to work through prior to attending the school office and again if she does end up in the sick bay. Nine times out of ten, it is her anxiety causing the physical complaints. The hope in using the flow chart is that the school staff can attempt to assist O with whatever is causing her anxious feelings to determine if she is anxious or in fact ill.

O's anxiety can manifest as anger, verbal outbursts, irritability, defiance and frequent meltdowns. And it is well and truly after she has vented that we are able to get to the bottom of what is causing the anxiousness.

O's anxiety manifest itself as procrastinating in doing the things that she ordinarily loves to do like choir and cubs and sporting activities. O loves school to the point that when she is sick, she still wants to go. The mornings that she is overly reluctant to go to school, we know that her anxiety is at play. O has always been a social butterfly, she struggles in social situations but she loves meeting new people so when she decides that she just wants to sit in her room and NOT be social, we know that's her anxiety speaking.

O's anxiety can manifest itself as becoming clingy, worrying about where other family members are and when they'll be home (even though she knows where they are and when they'll be home.) Her anxiety can manifest itself as O asking the same question over and over and over again

O's anxiety can present as BIG emotional feelings that are too overwhelming to describe or to manage. Cue meltdown central.

O's anxiety can manifest as feeling physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted all of the time. Her anxiety can also present as fatigue …. "I'm too tired to play, too tired to run, I just want to sit."

O's anxiety can present as an overwhelming desire to control those around her, including her friends, and events that she is involved in. If O can control what is happening around her, she knows exactly what is going to happen and the unknown becomes the known.

O's anxiety can manifest as an inability to pay attention to what is happening around her.

O's anxiety can manifest as having a super high expectation for herself at school.

O's anxiety can also present as worry. O will worry about the big and the seemingly small things in life. But to her, the small things are often the biggest.

O's anxiety manifests itself as her twisting her hair, chewing on her shirt collar, chewing or sucking on the lid of her drink bottle. 

O will internalise all of her anxious thoughts and feelings all day and then explode in the afternoon the minute she walks through the front door.

On any given day, you may see all of the above in O. Other days, she may only present with one or two of the above.

The ways that O's anxiety manifests itself is quite common in many children as well as for many adults.

The next time that someone says to you that they are anxious and you just can't see it. Please take a closer look. Look at their body actions. Are they desperately trying to tell you something.  

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