Ah, anxiety. A word that is so often thrown around in society and yet many of us know so little about. Sure, we all know what it feels like to be anxious or nervous and have that gnawing feeling rising in the pit of our stomachs; however, anxiety is so much more than that.

AUTHOR

Taylor Bryant, MA & Nicole Katsaounis, M.Ed

CATEGORY

Newsletter

POSTED ON

October 1, 2019

Sure, we all know what it feels like to be anxious or nervous and have that gnawing feeling rising in the pit of our stomachs; however, anxiety is so much more than that. Truthfully, anxiety often presents in ways we are very unaware of. It also presents differently in adults versus children as well as having different presentations when taking culture into consideration. Anxiety can ruin relationships, negatively impact our ability to parent, and just cause an overall decrease in life satisfaction.

Anxiety can be defined as excessive anxiety and worry about a number of events or activities, occurring more days than not, over a period of time. Adults often worry about every day activities such as job responsibilities, finances, health, misfortune to their children, and minor matters (such as being on time for an appointment). (DSM V, 2013).

AAlthough the definition of anxiety may not seem that menacing, the various presentations of anxiety can be life-crushing. For example, one of the major results of anxiety disorder is the excessive need for control. This control can present in an almost obsessive-like trait of planning every detail of one’s life or the life of a loved one. Control may present in specific ways to carry out mundane activities such as how to do the laundry or load the dishwasher. Control may also present in anxiety when others don’t respond in a way you would expect them to. Another telltale sign of anxiety is an outburst of anger or frustration when this aforementioned control is not had. It is not uncommon for people living with anxiety to become angry, curt, and emotionally upset when plans are changed or details of plans are unknown, when tasks are not carried out the way one thinks they should be, or when other’s don’t respond with the anticipated response from the viewpoint of the person with anxiety. Now, does this mean everyone who is controlling and grumpy just anxious? Of course not. But these are common presentations of Generalized Anxiety disorder and something to consider.

Anxiety often manifests itself as mood swings, overall annoyance with people or situations, and/ or a variety of health problems such as headaches, diarrhea or constipation, increased heart rate, sweating, or exaggerated startle responses. Another common presentation is demanding behavior, a “because I said so” attitude.

We can only imagine how living with the symptoms of chronic anxiety can put a strain on our loved ones and make relationships difficult. People with anxiety often feel the need to back up their opinions with what I like to call the “invisible army.” For example, someone may say, “we all agree you’re like this,” or “so-and-so agrees with me.” Having obsessive-like traits, anger, and an invisible army is exhausting for the person living with anxiety as well as it being exhausting for family and loved ones.

Anxiety in Kids

Anxiety in children can have slightly different manifestations versus those of adults. Most often, children experiencing anxiety will present with demanding attitudes, insecure attachment styles with caregivers, and having high expectations. Let’s first look at demanding attitudes. Children with anxiety often will be classified as being bossy and become upset and cry when they don’t get their way. Now, lots of kids do this anyway for a variety of reasons ranging from parenting skills to their home environment; however, these are also shared commonalities with an anxiety disorder.

For our tots, an insecure attachment style will most often look like crying for one caregiver over seemingly minor issues or needing one particular caregiver to carry out every day tasks that a neurotypical child of a certain age would be able to complete such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, going potty, going to nap, etc. Often times, a parent will not look at this behavior with concern as they may think their child just loves them SO much. The thing is, toddlers often “love” caregivers equally and so attachment to one person may be a symptom of anxiety.

In some cultures, anxiety may present as a prevalence of somatic symptoms such as sleep disturbances and stomach problems (a very common manifestation of anxiety in Eastern cultures).

For our school-aged kids, anxiety often presents as worry about their academic or sports performances. They tend to worry excessively about their competence and have a “perfectionist” mindset. For these kids, they may become upset if they don’t get something right on the first attempt or feel like what they are doing is not good enough. Again, just because a child exhibits these symptoms does not mean he or she has anxiety, but it does mean that it is worth investigating it further.

What Next?

One of the most effective treatments for generalized anxiety disorder is cognitive behavior therapy, in which a therapist will work with the client to change the way their brain perceives and processes information.

Taylor and Nicole offer coaching on anxiety reduction and stress management. We provide solution-focused, therapeutic skills to target anxiety producing concerns and create a strategy to significantly decrease anxious behaviors in your daily life. Schedule your FREE STRATEGY SESSION with us today!

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