Anxiety Disorders are the most common type of mental health disorder in children and young people. 

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Causes of anxiety disorders

  • Factors that contribute to the development of anxiety disorders include: genetic predisposition, psychological factors and environmental factors. 

Symptoms of anxiety disorders

  • Symptoms fall into two groups: physical symptoms like headaches or feeling sick; and emotional symptoms like nervousness and fear. 
  • Anxiety disorders, when severe, can affect a child's thinking, decision-making ability, perception of the environment and learning and concentration. 
  • It can raise blood pressure and heart rate and can cause vomiting, stomach pain, ulcers, diarrhoea, tingling, weakness and shortness of breath. 

Treatment for anxiety disorders

  • Treatment for anxiety disorders may include some form of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and or medications. 

Supporting students with anxiety disorders

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Understanding anxiety

  • Recognise that anxiety can seriously impact on a young person’s life and they need understanding and support to help them manage the condition.  
  • Talking can help but it may take some time for a young person to feel confident or comfortable to express their worries or concerns.  

Helpful activities

  • Build Mindfulness exercises into the school routine, e.g. 5 mins exercise at the start of the lesson.  
  • Distraction activities can be useful. Make a box of distraction activities such as mindful colouring, sensory materials such as play dough, fiddle toys. Place the box in an accessible place so it can be used when required.  
  • Practical help to prioritise and organise workload as students may fall behind and become overwhelmed. For example, teacher notes on missed work, 1-1 meeting to discuss subject priorities and deadlines.  

Classroom culture

  • Provide a calm and quiet space that can be accessed with a time out card.  
  • Positive feedback and praise when a young person does something well or overcomes a challenge.  
  • Recognise and value all contributions to school life not only the academic or outstanding achievements.

More information

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