Archive of ‘Anxiety’ category

Anxiety in Children: What is Normal? (Part 1 of 2)

It can be difficult to know as a parent when your child’s anxiety is reaching a point where they need help. What is considered normal nervousness and stress, and what are some red flags that could clue parents in that it’s time to get help? In this two-part article, I will be discussing what’s normal, reasonable anxiety, and what are some signs that it’s time to see a therapist.

Normal Anxiety

All children will experience some fear and anxiety throughout their life. In fact, it is developmentally appropriate that children experience nervousness when faced with something new or stressful. This fear is natural, because it signals the brain to proceed with caution when facing a new stressor. Sometimes even exciting things can first be seen as fearful to children.

Children experience these normal anxiety-provoking situations by backing off, seeking assurance from parents, or having shaky confidence for a while. When the child has mastered the situation, this confidence will grow again, and you will see your child overcome their initial fear. Parents can help their children to overcome these fears by accepting and listening to their child’s concerns, soothingly correcting any misinformation the child might believe, and gently encouraging the child to take one step at a time until this fear is conquered. Being gentle and loving during this time is the key to helping your child overcome lingering anxiety.

Typical Childhood Fears

Early Childhood – At age one, children are healthily attached to their caregivers, and might be fearful of separation. This gradually improves until around kindergarten age, where this separation anxiety gets better. Children ages 3-6 might have trouble distinguishing between what is real and imaginary, which is why children of this age can be scared of people in costumes, the dark, under the bed, etc. During this early childhood period, children might fear sleeping alone, but this again usually resolves by kindergarten age.

Later Childhood – In elementary school, children are exposed to new and more realistic fears. These can include storms, burglars, fires, and getting sick, to just name a few. As they grow, and gain real world experience, children begin to understand better that these are not likely scenarios. In middle school, children begin to get really anxious about fitting in with peers, and how to act in social situations. They also begin to have performance anxiety, as they begin to excel in their chosen academic or extracurricular activities. High school age children still worry about social status, but also about their identity, and acceptance in the group that they want to be in. At this age, teenagers also begin to worry about the outside world, morals, and their future.

By: Michelle Beyer, LPC – Intern Supervised by Karen Burke, LPC-S, RPT-S


Anxiety’s Scale and What You Need to Know

By: Julie Smith, LMFT-Associate
Supervised by David Braham, LMFT-S

So, you have anxiety. What do you need to know? Anxiety can be an all-inclusive overwhelming feeling or it can be this little voice in your head that never seems to go away. How is that possible?

Scaling It Out

Anxiety is on a spectrum and I like to look at it through a scale, 0-10.

Having a level 0 of anxiety is your personal utopia. Everything is how is should be at a level 0. For children, this could mean that they get to have their favorite meal, stay up late, and get dessert (it’s their dream world, right?). Adolescents might have a level 0 that looks like no homework, no curfew, and freedom to do whatever they please. As an adult, we can dream that a level 0 includes the perfect family, being the perfect parent, the perfect job, or the perfect vacation. The point is that your level 0 is personal to you. Only you know that experience.

When thinking about what your level 10 can be, it can be easy to start feeling that anxiety build up. A level 10 is when your anxiety is the worst it has ever been to you. This could be a panic attack, getting stuck in Austin traffic, not able to go to work or planned activities, or anything that you can think of that is absolutely the most anxious you’ve ever felt.

After plotting what your level 0 and level 10 could be, finding that level 5 is a good balance marker. I like to think of anyone’s level 5 as a good guide to knowing when your anxiety is approaching the level in which you can’t control it anymore. Again, levels of anxiety on this scale are as unique as the person creating them.

What’s the Point?

So, what is the point to creating this scale? Why do I need to know what my levels of anxiety are? Developing your personal scale of what anxiety can be, allows you to start becoming aware of where anxiety is present in your life, how often it is there, and to what intensity it can level up to. This is the perfect place to start when it comes to gaining control over anxiety. These steps to becoming aware of anxiety in your life can lead to identifying consistent patterns in how anxiety appears.

By externalizing your anxiety into a scale, it allows you to gain power over yourself, because anxiety is no longer powering over your identity. You could become aware about how anxiety is good in some areas of your life. Anxiety can allow for caution when needed. Anxiety tells your body when something isn’t right around you and is trying to be a protector. But when anxiety becomes overly protective is when it becomes restrictive. This is why becoming aware of your anxiety important! It is important to know:

  • What level is your anxiety?
  • Where does your anxiety usually appear?
  • When does anxiety usually show up in your day?
  • Why do you think anxiety is there?
  • How often does anxiety show up?

These questions are a guide for you to help yourself. By gaining tools of understanding, you can have power over your anxiety.

Important Reminders

The most important thing to remember after all those words, is that this is just a start! Anxiety is a big feeling that takes time to get a hold of. Be nice to yourself when starting this journey. There will be times of success and even more times of not getting it right. But remember, this is the start! This journey takes work and effort, and the fact that you are working out speaks volumes of your courage and the power that you already have.

If you have any questions or comments I would love to talk you, your family, or a loved one that you are thinking of. Please contact me through Austin Family Counseling and we can start the conversation between you, anxiety, and your life. Let’s start this journey!


Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

Since the birth of the psychological field, there have been dozens of therapeutic approaches that have been developed to help individuals work through their struggles. One therapy that is relatively new, at least in relation to how long others have been around, is known as a therapy called EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I’m going to tell you a little bit about what EMDR is and how it can be used in therapy to treat a wide array of difficulties.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a therapy developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989. In 1987 Dr. Shapiro stumbled upon the observation that eye movements can lessen the intensity of disturbing thoughts and used this observation to fuel research that led to her publication in The Journal of Traumatic Stress, establishing EMDR as a therapy used to treat post traumatic stress. Since then researchers have gone on to show how EMDR is not only very effective in treating trauma and PTSD, but can also treat other difficulties such as:

  • performance anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • body dysmorphic disorders
  • painful memories
  • phobias
  • complicated grief
  • dissociative disorders
  • personality disorders
  • pain disorders

How Does EMDR Work?

There is no way to know how any psychotherapy works on the neurological level, but there are some things we do know. When a person is very upset and under duress, the brain cannot process information as it would under normal conditions. (See my previous blog about how trauma affects the brain). So parts of the memory get stored separately and “frozen in time.” When the memory is then activated, it can feel very much like the person is experiencing the memory as if it is currently happening: the same feelings, thoughts and body sensations can resurface with the same intensity as when the event occurred because those things never processed through adequately and thus remain unchanged. These memories interfere with the way a person reacts to and views the world and others.

It appears that EMDR has an effect on how your brain processes information and allows the “frozen” material a chance to process through in a functional manner. Once the memory has been processed adequately, it no longer has the same effect on the person. Many individuals come away feeling neutral about the memory. By using bilateral stimulation (meaning both the left and right hemispheres are alternately stimulated), that’s where the eye movements come in, these “stuck” memories get activated and normal information processing can be resumed. This is similar to what happens naturally in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the cycle of sleep in which information taken in through the previous day is processed and sorted into short-term and long-term memory networks. If you have ever observed someone during the REM sleep cycle, you may have noticed that their eyes are darting back and forth underneath the eyelids. So really this is different from other therapies that work toward the same goals because it works on the physiological level.

Why Choose EMDR Therapy

So, Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

In short, EMDR therapy is optimal because it can usually achieve the same goal as similar therapies with fewer sessions. It can also be useful when talk therapy has not proven to be effective. Since some experiences seem to get “frozen” in the memory networks, talking about them may not be enough. EMDR works on the neurological level to access those memories in a way that talk therapy may not be able to, so then the memory can be worked through. Survivors of trauma have also reported that EMDR therapy was optimal because it is not necessary to talk in detail about the traumatic event in order for EMDR to be effective. That doesn’t mean that it may not still be painful and difficult to bring up, but the whole narrative does not need to be given and once the memory is activated the person can move through the process with less difficulty. The brain moves towards healing just like our bodies do. If you cut your hand, your body works to heal itself. The brain does the same thing, and EMDR helps remove those barriers so it can.

This has been a brief description of what EMDR is and how it works. EMDR has been shown to be effective with children, teens, and adults. I hope it has been helpful and I hope you will consider EMDR therapy for yourself and your loved ones in the future! If you would like more information on EMDR you can visit http://www.EMDRIA.org and http://www.EMDR.com.


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