Should My Child Take Medication for Anxiety?
It can be really hard for parents to watch their children struggle with anxiety. You may have seen your child become highly anxious while studying for exams or witnessed them having a panic attack before a track meet. As a parent, it’s natural to want to help them feel better as quickly as possible, so you might be wondering if medication is an option.
Deciding whether to put your child on medication for anxiety is a highly personal decision. Some parents are open to it and others are not. It’s important to remember that there’s no one right way to deal with anxiety in your child. There are multiple options to consider.
Let’s take a look at some factors that will help you arrive at the right decision for you and your child.
If Anxiety is Interfering with Daily Life and Functioning
If anxiety is consistently interfering with your child’s daily life and functioning, you may want to consider medication.
The first step, however, is to figure out if your child has an actual anxiety disorder. Anxiety and an anxiety disorder are not the same thing.
Anxiety is a normal response to stress. An anxiety disorder however, is a group of mental conditions characterized by excessive fear of or apprehension about real or perceived threats. This fear leads to altered behavior and often to physical symptoms such as increased heart rate or muscle tension.
There are several different kinds of anxiety disorders. Some of the more common ones include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, specific Phobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety. Specific symptoms vary by type of anxiety disorder.
Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches that make it hard for kids to concentrate at school or do well in sports activities they enjoy–or even just go outside! Anxiety can also bring on a range of intense emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, helplessness, and irritability. If you recognize these symptoms in your child, then I recommend you have them evaluated for an anxiety disorder.
Your Child’s Pediatrician Can Provide Options for Anxiety Treatment
The first step in determining whether your child should take medication for anxiety is to talk with your child’s pediatrician. They will be able to help you determine the best plan for your child, which may include medication and/or other forms of treatment such as therapy.
If medication is warranted, your child’s pediatrician will provide you with options for anxiety medication such as antidepressants (SSRIs) or anti-anxiety medications (also known as benzodiazepines).
What types of medication are available?
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (or SSRIs as they are commonly known) include medications like Prozac and Zoloft. These drugs help relieve depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is a natural chemical that helps regulate moods. When you’re depressed or anxious, it’s hard for your brain to produce enough serotonin on its own. This can lead to symptoms like feeling sad all the time or being nervous when you’re around other people.
How do medications work?
SSRI medications work by binding themselves to receptors in the brain that normally receive natural serotonin. This binding causes the receptors to stay open longer than usual so more serotonin gets through before they close again. And because the receptors stay open longer, higher levels of natural chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine are also able to get through.
It’s important to remember that it may take a few tries before finding the right medication, and that’s okay! Some kids respond better to one kind of drug than another, so don’t get discouraged if your child doesn’t respond as well as you hoped on their first try.
Keep in mind that only about half of kids who start taking medication go on to need it long-term. Give them time before making any big decisions about what course of action is best for them. And make sure they’re also getting other forms of support such as therapy.
Some Anti-Anxiety Medications Can Have Negative Side Effects
Some medications have negative side effects, so it’s important to discuss with your pediatrician all of the possible side effects as well as how long they last. You also want to be clear about what side effects are acceptable to you and your child and which ones are not before trying them.
The doctor may recommend starting off on a lower dose than what is recommended on the label until they see whether or not there are any negative reactions before increasing the dosage.
Medication can be an important part of treatment for some children experiencing anxiety disorders, but it’s not the only option. Oftentimes, medication is used in conjunction with other treatments such as Solution Focused Brief Therapy for example, and should only be considered after careful consideration.
If you’re concerned that your child is experiencing anxiety, it’s important to talk with them about how they’re feeling and whether or not they think medication can help. If the answer is yes, then it’s time to talk with their pediatrician about specific recommendations. The most important thing for parents and children alike is to remember that there are always options when it comes to anxiety treatment.
Begin Online Therapy for Kids and Teens with Anxiety in Illinois and now Florida!
As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing counseling for anxiety. To start your child’s counseling journey, call me at 224-236-2296 or email Helena@BrieflyCounseling.com to schedule a FREE 20-minute consultation.
Whether you’re on the North Shore, in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Barrington, Libertyville, Glenview, or downstate Illinois, I can help.
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Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.