Emma Stone recently opened up about her struggle with childhood anxiety. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, she revealed:
“I was a very, very, very anxious child and I had a lot of panic attacks…It has always been something that I’ve lived with and it flares up in big ways at different times in my life. Sometimes while it’s happening, like while I’m in a phase of big turmoil, it feels like it’s never gonna end — but it does. I benefited in a big way from therapy.”
Colbert showed the audience a picture drawn by Stone during therapy when she was 9 years old. The picture depicted a little green monster and a self-portrait of Stone, with a caption that said: “I am bigger than my anxiety.”
Stone’s story underscores how common childhood anxiety is and, importantly, how early treatment can help an anxious child become a successful, happy adult.
Common Fear vs. Anxiety
According to Parents magazine, there are several signs to look for when determining whether your child is temporarily worried or if they are chronically anxious.
One of the most important indications is severity, for example if your child’s worries are unrealistic and exaggerated and – despite being told that everything is okay – they are not able to stop worrying.
Your child may try to avoid situations that trigger his or her anxiety, such as trying to skip school if they are scared of getting sick; or never leaving a parent’s side if he or she is afraid of being alone. While children often go through phases of this type of behavior, the ongoing reoccurrence and inability to grow past them may point to an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety can have physical symptoms, too, like a racing heart, headache, stomach pain or shortness of breath. Children may also act out due to their anxiety by throwing temper tantrums or crying easily.
Types of Childhood Anxiety
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists the following as some of the types of anxiety that are most often seen in children:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Excessive worry about things such grades, friend and family relationships.
- Panic Disorder – Characterized by two or more unexpected panic attacks or “loss of control.”
- Separation Anxiety Disorder – Refusal to leave a parent’s side to go to school, go to bed, or even during activities throughout the day.
- Social Anxiety Disorder – Intense fear of social situations such as interacting with other children on the playground.
How to Help Your Child
As Emma’s Stone’s conversation with Stephen Colbert detailed, there are ways to manage anxiety through talk therapy and medication.
According to the Child Mind Institute, everyday conversation with your child can play a central role in easing anxiety. This can include:
- Giving your child positive encouragement such as, “You’re going to play great today” or “Your friends are excited to see you.” These statements will reassure your child that he or she can handle situations despite initially feeling anxious.
- Asking your child about how and why they are feeling a certain way. This demonstrates that you recognize and care about their anxiety, and makes the child feel comfortable to talk about his or her anxiety with others and ask for help in the future.
Over time, actions such as these can help a child feel prepared to handle their anxiety, which may lessen the anxiety. Furthermore, it will give them the confidence they need to manage their mental health into their adult years.
Reach out to your healthcare provider to learn more about childhood anxiety and what kinds of treatment plans are available.