Anxiety problems affect one in ten of us, and can play havoc with living a normal life. So, it isn’t a surprise to hear that many people with anxiety problems are worried that they may pass this problem onto their children. They know only too well the distress it causes, and the last thing they want is to see their children ‘copying’ their fears. Unfortunately, this fear is grounded in reality. Sadly, more than half of anxiety sufferers go on to have children who develop similar difficulties.
A recent US study explored how this problem could be helped. 136 families were studied. Each family had at least one parent with a diagnosed anxiety disorder and a child who had not yet shown any signs of anxiety. Half of the families were given CBT training giving them guidance in how to best help their children to face stressful or fearful situations. At a follow-up one year later, one in three of the families who hadn’t had this training had a child beginning to show anxiety problems. But for the families trained in CBT this figure dropped to one in twenty. The CBT training had therefore proved very effective in preventing anxiety in these vulnerable children.
One of the key issues that emerged was that children need help in facing their fears. When children become afraid we sometimes worry they will become too distressed and subtly help them to avoid or escape from the situation that is worrying them. It’s a natural response, but one that unfortunately makes the problem worse.
This study is exciting because it clearly shows that there are ways to protect children with a known vulnerability from developing a problem that can have a big impact on their future development.
For NHS funded therapy for anger, anxiety or depression, phone (01208) 871905 or register online [HERE].