Anxiety can be a negative and positive situation depending on the circumstances. It is like an
alarm clock going off at 5:30 am reminding one to wake up and signaling that it is time to get ready
for work or school. The alarm clock symbolizes a short lived dread for a lot of people waking up from
their cozy slumber. Many people hit that snooze button over and over trying to steal a few more
minutes of that cozy slumber and delaying the daily grind of going to work or school. But, that type of
anxiety does not interfere with daily life. It is just the simple, normal consequences of being involved
with a job or school. It is when anxiety is a consistent dread of worry that it becomes a negative
situation. When children, adolescents, and even adults start avoiding certain activities or cannot
function at work or school and daily tasks then they most likely are suffering from an anxiety disorder.
There are many types of anxiety disorders. “But, despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders
share one major symptom: persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t
feel threatened.” (Melinda Smith, M.A., Robert Segal, M. A. and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Anxiety Attacks
and Disorders: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment, www.heplguide.org ). Anxiety disorders can be broken
down into several different categories: Panic Attack, Social Anxiety, Obsessive – Compulsive Disorder,
Generalized Anxiety and Separation Anxiety. It is normal, especially for children to go through fear and
worry when they are separated from a parent. Adolescents have the anxiety of just becoming a
teenage and hoping to just fit in with their peers.
Physical symptoms of these disorders can cause a pounding heart, headaches, insomnia, and
sweating. But, emotional symptoms can cause those feelings of dread, always anticipating the worst,
and trouble concentrating on a job, school work, and daily tasks.
Authors of Abnormal Child Psychology, Eric J. Mash and David A. Wolfe reference many times to
children with anxiety disorders as being common in highly dysfunctional families because of constant
chaos and lack of structure and overbearing parents. They also suggest that if one parents has an
anxiety disorder then it is possible for their child to have a disorder suggesting heredity as a cause.
Behavior Therapy, Cognitive – Behavior Therapy, Family Interventions, and Medications are several
ways that experts can help these children and adolescents take control of their fears and life.
Medication along with the other therapies may be needed for severe, paralyzing cases while behavior
and family interventions could prove to be beneficial in the milder to moderate cases.
The difference between anxiety and mood disorders is the emotional state. Anxiety causes constant
fear while mood disorders causes sadness or high elation. Charlie Brown (Charles M. Schulz, 1922 –
2000), quoted in Abnormal Child Psychology, Mash & Wolfe, “This is my depressed stance”.
“When you’re depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand.” “The worst thing you can do is
straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better”. “If you are going to get
any joy out of being depressed, you’ve got to stand like this”. (pg 231) I imagine when Charlie Brown
says to stand like this, he is talking about his shoulders being hunched and his head hung low with no
eye contact. It is amazing how posture can energize a person and their endorphins flowing for a better
mood. Perhaps exercise like yoga can be mood lifting and mood altering. It would get your blood
flowing and release stress that can nag at depression and make it worse. There are two types of mood
disorder: depressive disorders and bipolar disorder. I believe that Charlie Brown had depressive
disorder. He seemed to be in a state of prolonged bouts of sadness. In the Peanuts cartoon he always
had his head hung low and felt he was never good at anything that the gang was good at. He could
never get contact with his foot to the football and his Christmas tree was always the sad looking one.
Bipolar Disorder keeps one in a state of constant highs and lows. “Almost all youngsters recover from
their initial depressive episode, but about 70% have another episode within 5 years and many develop
bipolar disorder”. (Mash & Wolfe, pg 247) ADHD and anxiety disorders are usually present in children
with bipolar disorders. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are usually less sleep requirements, excessive
talking, and excessive involvement in risky business.
There is no cure for bipolar disorders but managing and stabilizing mood can be most effective.
Medication is usually needed in these cases to help stabilize mood normally for the rest of that person’s
life. It seems if depression can be handled appropriately and at the beginning stages that a child or
adolescent may be better equipped if their depression led to bipolar disorders later in life. Holistic
approaches seem to be promising for depression because affirmations, posture and thinking good
thoughts can become a mind over matter strategy that is much healthier than being handed Prozac.
If a solid base can be built under depression then maybe it can be pulled out to create a healthy
resource for a child or adolescent with a bipolar disorder.
- Abnormal Child a, Mash, J. Eric & Wolfe, A. David, 4th edition, 2010, 2007Anxiety Attacks and Disorders: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment, Melinda Smith, M.A.,
Robert Segal, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D , June 2008, www.helpguide.org