The Overly Anxious Child

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

worriedchild“Worry is the thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” ~ Arthur Somers Roche.

Many adults wonder what children have to worry about. After all, they have all their basic needs met by others in the majority of circumstances. That said, the chief referral reason for child therapy revolves around a host of behaviors, symptoms, and interactions that will inevitably come to be diagnosed at Overanxious Disorder of Childhood. This same disorder is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder when applied to adults.

Let’s take a look at the symptoms of the overly anxious child and some of the presenting problems that may indicate this is going on.

Symptoms of the Overly Anxious Child:

Excessive anxiety or worry.

Difficulties controlling the anxiety or worry.

Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge. A state of fear without a precipitating event.

A state of being easily tired or fatigued.

Difficulty concentrating. Ones mind going blank. Inability to focus.

Irritability including anger.

Muscle tension, tenseness.

Sleep disturbances. Reported difficulties going to sleep, staying asleep, or obtaining restful sleep.

So what’s the big deal about having anxiety?

Anxiety robs a child of peace, joy, fun, and a childhood. Children who worry don’t have the luxury of engaging in the here and now except for moments stolen back from the state of anxiety present much of the time. Children who worry report unhappiness, dread concerning the future, and a constant sense that the next bad thing is about to happen. Some of these children will have panic states where they have trouble breathing or catching their breath, a rapid heart beat, and they easily cry, shout, or act out with anger due to the inability to hold all of this inside.

Children often try to explain their anxiety and worry to their parents. Most children and teens tell me their parents simply don’t understand. Parents tell their children it is a state of mind. They are told there is nothing to feel anxious about. Parents get angry at their child’s report of anxiety and often parents dismiss it all as an exercise in child drama making.

Anxiety is real, palpable, and it feels, to the child or teen, as though one more thing will cause you to implode or explode. Anxious children don’t want to disappoint others. Often they are the family peace-keepers or mediators. They take on more than they can handle and seldom complain until that dreaded anxiety peaks.

If a parents want to intimately understand anxiety they do need to look a bit differently at their child. What do you really see? Is Johnny biting his lower lip. Is Joy biting her nails? Does Sara have trouble telling her teacher she doesn’t have time to do one more club? Is Brian working so hard in baseball and track that he is falling behind on his math and he stays up until midnight working on it? Look at what your children say and do. Then begin to ask questions.

Some good questions can take the form of some of the following examples:

How are you feeling today?

When I saw you studying last night it felt like you were worried about something, were you?

In soccer practice last night you blew up at George. That’s not typical for you. Are you worrying about something?

Watch how your child eats, sleeps, and eliminates. Do they rest? Or, is it go, go, go.

Try for a relationship of emotional honesty.

Take care and be well.

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

When Children Remember 9/11/2001

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

neverforget911“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” ~ Oscar Wilde.

We don’t need to worry about forgetting. We have a part of the brain whose job it is to secure all information for future use.

Continue reading… »

Paying Kids For Good Grades?

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

paying-kids-for-good-grades-630x432“A student asked his Zen master how long it would take to reach enlightenment.  “Ten years,” the master said.  But, the student persisted, what if he studied very hard?  “Then 20 years,” the master responded.  Surprised, the student asked how long it would take if he worked very, very hard and became the most dedicated student in the Ashram.  “In that case, 30 years,” the master replied.  His explanation:  “If you have one eye on how close you are to achieving your goal, that leaves only one eye for your task.” ~ From Alfie Kohn, A Case Against Grades.

This topic has surfaced off and on in recent years. Many parents want their children to evidence success at any cost. Let’s look at some of the issues.

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What Makes A Happy New Year

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

happy-new-year-2014-hd-wallpapers-4“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T.S. Eliot.

A new year has just turned the corner. Many people in my clinical practice have voiced hope that 2014 will be an improvement over 2013. This last year was difficult for many. There were deaths, divorces, cancer diagnoses, financial problems, temporary setbacks, and major issues to address for many.

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Events That Changed Your Life

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

918kuG-Vt1L._SL1500_-1“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is nature’s delight.” ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

“To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.” ~ Erich Fromm.

Loss permeates the experience of life. It follows us through our lifetime.

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The Trickle-Down Effect: Children and Parent Mental Illness

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

unfair_0“You could run from someone you feared, you could try to fight someone you hated. All my reactions were geared toward those kinds of killers, the monsters, the enemies. When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your  life was all you had to give your beloved, how could you not give it? If it were someone you truly loved?”~ Bella Swan.

What is a child to do when mommy or daddy abuses, uses, or is dependent on drugs or alcohol?

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Children, Teens, and Depression

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

child-abuse-729-420x0“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Depression comes in many forms. Sometimes it appears in obvious formats, such as through a sad face or slumped head and shoulders, or even through little eye contact and the lack of a smile. These are the more obvious forms of depression, as it might appear on the outside. Let’s take a look at how depression looks in children and teens.

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Children And Substance Dependent Parents

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

article-2123061-00A7FA1A00000259-456_468x301“In a way, I wanted my mum to go back to prison, because she was clean (drug free) for a few weeks when she came out of prison.” ~ Child, (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction).

The children of parents with substance dependence and abuse problems suffer silently.

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Examining Tough Love In Parenting

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

stand-firm-tough-love-kid-800x800Tough love is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run.” ~ Wikipedia.

I believe in structure, boundaries, and limits for children. I also believe we do well to have fair limits placed on those we invite into our lives.

Tough love has become a common phrase used in many varying contexts. My worry is that tough love that is not mindful is like passing the buck.

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“But Mommy You Promised You Wouldn’t Do That Again”

By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo

my_mother_is_a_hoarder-460x307“At the end, all that’s left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that’s why I’ve hoarded the world: with the hope that when I died, the sum total of my things would suggest a life larger than the one I lived.” ~ Nicole Krauss.

Hoarding, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and complicated grief coalesce to create an avalanche of chaos. I hear stories of children who beg their mother or father to not engage in behaviors that, even to a child, seem out-of-control. What are children to do about their parents who hoard?

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