Google Dictionary definition:
noun: anxiety; plural noun: anxieties
Anxiety is a great masquerader and notorious for always being wrong. Hidden beneath the surface of many challenging behaviors can deeply lie the source.
What you may see:
What might be happening:
Let’s pretend Jane is a 3rd grader and at school she often displays what looks like oppositional, disobedient and unmanageable behaviors. Her teacher may describe frequent outbursts, running out the classroom, and ripping up papers. She often ends up in the principles or school counselor’s office, she never gets to green on the classroom behavior chart and sometimes she is sent home. Even worse she has been suspended because one time she hit the principle because she could not calm down.
In Jane’s case, the anxiety shows up and she doesn’t have the skills yet (depending on her age and developmental level) to understand it or communicate how she is feeling. Her body and mind go into fight or flight mode, her brain kicks into high gear, she feels like she is in danger and she tries to escape the situation or fight back against it. When she is sent home or gets a break in the principles office, these consequences meet her needs of getting out of the uncomfortable situation that caused her to feel anxious in the first place.
Overtime, as we feed anxiety with our mismanaged coping skills:
So as you can see here in the case of "Jane", challenging behaviors that are often seen as defiant or oppositional can be easily misread anxiety. In a nutshell, if your child’s behavior is unpredictable or they are quick to anger, anxiety may be the cause or this might be something to explore further towards understanding how to support your child.
Here at ABC Behavioral Services, I primarily utilize Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help children manage their anxiety. This therapeutic approach is behavioral and ACTion based focusing on:
If you want to learn more some of my favorite parenting resources related to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Parenting are: