Anxiety Fact Sheet
What is anxiety?
Believe it or not, anxiety is generally a good thing. It is what motivates us and causes us to get things done. If you go out to your car tomorrow morning to drive to work and you hear an odd sound coming from the engine, you may get concerned that something is wrong with the car, or worse, that it might be dangerous. The more you drive the car, the more anxious you will feel, until you finally do something to solve the problem. Your mechanic tells you it was good that you brought it in when you did, because he replaced a $25 belt, and the sound disappeared. But along with the sound, your anxiety will disappear as well.
So a little bit of anxiety is a good thing, if it causes us to pay our bills, or get that project done at work, or apply for that mortgage refinancing. But what happens when there is too much anxiety? What happens when you start worrying over every tiny, little thing? And what happens when you feel anxious, but there is nothing that you know of that is causing you to feel anxious? The anxiety may build until you feel overwhelmed and you don't know where to start. Then anxiety is counter-productive and it will actually interfere with your ability to get things done. These may be signs of an anxiety disorder.
What is an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety is a physical feeling. It might have emotional origins, but you feel it in the pit of your stomach; or the sweaty palms; or the rapid, pounding heart rate; or the inability to fall asleep. Everybody experiences anxiety, but an anxiety disorder is a neurologically-based, physical problem that occurs when there is an inappropriately high level of anxiety, or when anxiety occurs without a source and when that level of anxiety begins to interfere with common, everyday functions.
We sometimes feel that anxiety is the product of stress and a busy life that only adults can produce and experience. But in reality, an anxiety disorder can occur in children just as often as it occurs in adults. The anxiety can be caused by problems that are occurring at home, such as financial difficulties or an impending divorce. But just as often, there is no source of the anxiety, except for a chemical imbalance in the brain that produces those physical feelings described above. And those feelings can be very frightening to a young child.
The most important "job" for children is to excel in school. This is how they achieve success, and therefore feel motivated and happy. It is therefore not hard to see how school would be a prime source of anxiety. School is a place with rules and deadlines and high expectations. When on Monday a teacher announces a math test for Friday, that should produce some anxiety, that builds until Friday. A child can decrease anxiety by studying for the test, and as she feels more and more prepared, the anxiety should dissipate. So a little bit of anxiety in school is a good thing, because it causes children to get things done. But children with an anxiety disorder will feel overwhelmed when they are asked to do two things at once ("Read chapter 4 and write a report summarizing the chapter."), when they are given open-ended tasks ("I want you to read in your history book every night, because you never know when you might have a pop quiz."), or when they are not prepared (they left their geography book at home with the homework assignment stuck in it).
Learn more about why Lexis Prep offers the optimal environment for children with anxiety disorders.
My son David flourished in his first year at Lexis Prep. Once a shy child who would often sit on the sidelines as he watched the other kids play games and sports, at Lexis Prep. David developed a new self confidence and he enjoyed getting involved in sports. David grew in other ways as well. He interacted with his peers and participated in class more than in previous years. His teachers were nurturing and encouraging, which made him feel comfortable and special.Beth Sedlet