Anxiety is normal. It’s a ‘worry switch’ or helpful indicator that something may not be quite right and a possible threat is near. When all your son feels is anxiety that holds him back from daily living, from the life that he so desperately wants to live...then his ‘worry switch’ is off and needs tending to. Research has proven that variations of CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are the right treatment for most anxieties. The — let’s say — “three amigos” of child and adolescent anxiety are typically Separation Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and what’s called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I call them “amigos” because it’s uncommon with children to meet just one; they travel in pairs or as a threesome. All are treatable.
- Is your child anxious or worried all of the time (kind of like a mini-middle management guy...always expecting the worst and needing to micromanage life at home)?
- Does your son have a fear of certain situations, places, or people, or activities?
- Is your son avoiding life? Sometimes the best parts of life?
- Has your son ever panicked so severely that his heart was racing, he couldn’t breathe, and felt like the whole world was closing in on him?
Seeking treatment is hard. It feels like just another challenge in some cases, but it’s the challenge that can quiet phobias and every other type of anxiety. I have an approach that’s supportive and good-humored; I can quickly get a sense (with the help of diagnostic tools) of what behavioral challenge is just the right step-up for your son.
CBT can help your son identify how his thoughts and behaviors feed his anxiety. Through learning coping skills and tools that are individualized to his personality, he can gain confidence in his ability to manage anxious feelings when they come up. CBT is an active approach to anxiety treatment that involves skill building during sessions as well as assigned practice outside of session, and can result in a relief of symptoms quickly. Exposure therapy helps your son in confronting fears through a graduated (step-by-step), safe, controlled process, with support that is empowered by genuine connection. Exposure therapy re-wires the sympathetic fight-or-flight response that is the brain’s driving force for all anxiety.
Whatever type of anxiety your son is suffering from, a step in the right direction is learning to make friends with whatever amigo he’s dealing with at the moment. That’s because worrying about being afraid/worried gets him only further from finally feeling better. Acceptance puts him on the path to feeling better.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, that’s when I’m free to change.” - Carl Rogers (legendary therapist)