Worry is normal. Anxiety is normal too as it protects you against danger. The problem is when we activate our normal stress responses to every day life.
How do you know it’s time to seek outside help for a generalized anxiety disorder? Some examples:
Everyday worry: paying bills or getting employed
Anxiety disorder: your finances or your job searches are constantly on your mind to the point that you can’t think of anything else. You think you will never be able to get a job again and you anticipate the worst that could happen to your life.
Everyday worry: you are afraid of spiders and you don’t even like to see a picture of one
Anxiety disorder: you are terrified of going to the zoo at the prospect of seeing a live spider or you don’t go out in nature. You are terrified for other things that don’t pose a threat to you such as airplanes or you don’t leave home.
Everyday worry: you are an introvert and you feel weird at parties. You worry about your looks or what you are wearing. You don’t feel too excited about socializing.
Anxiety disorder: You don’t go anywhere and you are terrified about people’s opinion about you. You prefer to stay home because you don’t need to interact with anyone in a social environment.
Everyday worry: you feel anxious before speaking to an audience. You worry about the content of your speech or if you will remember your speech so you rehearse it several times.
Anxiety disorder: You can’t speak before an audience because your hands shake, you sweat or your mouth dries up and you don’t want to stay. You want to leave because you are out of breath.
These are simple differences between the two states. Sometimes the differences might not be that clear to you.
If your child tells you they think they worry too much, tell them that worry is normal and that it protects them from danger. Ask them what could happen if their worries came true by trying to go one step beyond the symptom. Then explore with them what you as family can do together if it comes true.
Children (as well as adults) tend to catastrophize situations (estimate the worst). They sometimes are embarrassed to share what they think is the worst that can happen. Listen to them and provide support by assuring them that together you will face the situation. Try not to downplay their worries or judge them.
If you or your child is facing a stress disorder and would like to see a therapist, contact me for a free consultation.