Kids who avoid scary situations are more prone to developing anxiety disorders.
It seems to make sense, right? Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something that is about to happen, or about something that you do not know the outcome yet. A scary situation, especially as a child, would be avoided. If a child is constantly afraid, though, and is constantly avoiding more and more situations, that seems to indicate anxiety already.
Avoidance behaviors in kids have been tested and studied at the Mayo Clinic in the hopes that new, early indicators for those prone to anxiety disorders can be recognized and treated early on.
Two questionnaires, one to ask parents about their children’s avoidance tendencies, and another to ask the kids directly, were created and named the Children’s Avoidance Measure Parent Report and the Children’s Avoidance Measure Self Report, respectively.
An example question for parents is “When your child is scared or worried about something, does he or she ask to do it later?” while the kids themselves are asked questions like, “When I feel scared or worried about something, I try not to go near it.”
The study has been published in the journal Behavior Therapy, with results showing that anxiety only got worse for the children who responded with higher levels of avoidance when scary situations occurred when surveyed again in a year, and that the more anxiety-prone children benefited from psychotherapy when surveyed again a year later.
The ability to help children learn other coping skills besides avoiding, sets them up better for real-life scenarios that would normally cause debilitating anxiety. Facing a fear as a young child sets someone up to deal with fearful encounters and overall anxiety-provoking situations.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is effective to help people make changes in the way they think and then behave. Anxiety does not have to keep someone in a life of avoidance. CBT and other forms of therapy are available for those suffering from anxiety.
Maybe teaching kids to face small fears during childhood can decrease the long-term presence of anxiety in adults though.
Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado
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