How are you reading this article right now? On your phone? Tablet? Likely because you came across this article on one of your social media feeds. As your life right now likely illustrates, access to screens and, subsequently, to social media has increased tremendously in recent years and is now nearly ubiquitous. Accordingly, children are growing up immersed in a culture in which social connection, information and entertainment are available at one’s fingertips. There are many positive aspects to the level of connection and access technology and social media afford children, including opportunities to easily connect with friends and learn and expand their awareness and horizons beyond their local environment. But like with any activity, there can be negative components of children’s access to social media and screens–particularly when they are overused. What We Know (Or Rather What We Don’t!) While it is understandable that many parents are worried about the impact of social media on their children, it is also important to be a cautious and critical consumer of dramatic headlines about the impacts of social media. At present, there is still fairly limited research on the impact of social media usage on children. Additionally, many of the studies that have been conducted are “correlational” in nature, meaning while the study tells us that two things (such as social media use and anxiety) appear to be related, it cannot tell us the “direction” of that relationship, or which one causes the other. For example, a number of studies have found that high Facebook use is correlated with symptoms of depression; therefore, while using Facebook could lead someone to feel more sad, it could also be that individuals who are already somewhat depressed spend more time isolated and using social media, rather than going out and engaging with others. One increasingly studied area is the potential relationship between heavy social media use and anxiety. Though there is still no conclusive evidence, researchers and clinicians have proposed that anxiety and heavy social media use may have a reciprocal relationship. Specifically, children and teens more prone to social anxiety may use social media in part to avoid the potentially challenging or awkward moments that can come up in face to face interactions with peers. In the short run, this is an effective way to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions, however, in the long run, these children and teens are deprived of the opportunity to learn to navigate challenging social situations. They also do not get the chance to learn how to cope with the uncomfortable emotions that may result from challenging interactions such as anxiety or shame. Over time, this lack of practice may lead to deficits both in social skills and emotion regulation abilities, which could, in turn, cause the child to further avoid real life social interactions. Healthy Social Media Use Monitoring a child’s social media usage is a new parenting challenge. Luckily, the principles behind teaching your child how to responsibly use and engage withRead More
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that causes someone to have intruding and recurrent thoughts, called obsessions. These intruding thoughts can become all-consuming. Compulsions are strong urges to do something over and over to feel a sense of relief from these obsessions. They’re often referred to as rituals for this reason. Compulsions are a clever way to feel better at first because they immediately reduce anxiety. Unfortunately, they can increase over time and become all-consuming as well, making the person to feel even worse. Obsessions and compulsions work together, like a game of volleyball. You need both to keep them going. Compulsions feed obsessions. By working to resist urges to do compulsions, someone with OCD can diminish their obsessions. According to the International OCD Foundation (1), common obsessions and compulsions include: Obsessions Worrying about germs, getting sick, or dying. Extreme fears about bad things happening or doing something wrong. Feeling that things have to be “just right.” Disturbing and unwanted thoughts or images about hurting others. Disturbing and unwanted thoughts or images of a sexual nature. Compulsions Excessive checking (re-checking that the door is locked, that the oven is off). Excessive washing and/or cleaning. Repeating actions until they are “just right” or starting things over again. Ordering or arranging things. Mental compulsions (excessive praying, mental reviewing). Frequent confessing or apologizing. Saying lucky words or numbers. Excessive reassurance seeking (e.g., always asking, “Are you sure I’m going to be okay?”). The truth is, most people repeat certain behaviors from time to time and it’s common for children to have rituals or routines before school, after school or at bedtime. OCD rituals differ in that they become too frequent, and most importantly, they’re upsetting to the child and get in the way of everyday activities. Some people wonder if OCD is the same as worrying, but it’s not. Worries come and go, such as, “What if I’m not good enough to make the team?” or “What if I don’t have anyone to sit with at lunch?” With OCD, the same upsetting thought comes back again and again. Children don’t always know how to talk about their obsessions and compulsions. It doesn’t make sense to them so how could it make sense to someone else? They may wonder what’s wrong with them or why they’re like this when no one else seems to be. It can be embarrassing. For this reason, they can be very good at hiding their symptoms and suffering in silence. Parents may notice the following behaviors in children with OCD: You are always waiting for them. Timely transitions are difficult for children with OCD because they’re functioning within the time constraints of their OCD. Compulsive behaviors may take time to get “just right.” They take a long time to do everyday tasks, such as taking a shower, washing their hands, getting dressed, finishing a project. They may repeat the same actions in the same order repeatedly, such as turning in place, touchingRead More
Expert Guidance for You and Your Anxious Child
Learning the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist, and social worker or understanding clinical terms such as cognitive–behavioral therapy can be overwhelming. Finding the right resources is critical to addressing a child’s mental health needs and moving forward toward effective care.
In How to Find Mental Health Care for Your Child, seasoned child psychologist and author Ellen B. Braaten offers clear and expert guidance to help anxious parents navigate the complexities of mental health care.
Everyone feels anxious sometimes. It’s very normal. In fact, anxiety has a useful purpose in our lives; it keeps us safe. When we’re anxious, our bodies set off a reaction called the flight-or-flight response, and this causes changes in our bodies… faster heartbeat, trembling hands, shallow breathing, focused thinking. These changes help us act quickly when we need to, to protect ourselves -like staying away from a wild animal!Read More