Kids and Anxiety - Would You Medicate?
We see it more and more these days - kids and medications for depression, anxiety, and more. A part of me totally understands why, and understands the reason that parents are turning to medication - but there's another side of me screaming out that this is a dangerous bandaid on a problem that won't just go away with a pill.
The facts are there - anxiety disorders affect 1 in 8 children, and without treatment they are at a higher risk to do bad in school, miss out on life and turn to substance abuse. But what treatment is best?
If you already live your life turning to a pill to make things better, it probably seems like a lot of work to try and heal other ways. At least I used to feel that way. Turning to natural methods to heal does NOT mean there was no problem to begin with. It does not mean there was no disorder, no disease. The body is very well equipped to heal itself if we allow it and stop putting things into it that will make us worse.
Having my own children who struggle with anxiety disorders, I definiltely know the temptation to turn to medications. It seems like they are all better. But soon the side effects start popping up. Then more information about what the medication can be doing to them (like possibly increasing suicidal thoughts and behavior - yes even in young kids). Then the realization that we could save their mental health in other more gentler ways. It's a process, I know. Here are some ideas that helped us:
Parent Differently - Understand that it will take different parenting to help an anxious child. You can't cookie cutter this - kids with anxiety disorders need a whole different paradigm. Sometimes you the parent will have already figured this out through trial and error - or maybe you need some new ideas and tips. I like the tips here on WorryWiseKids.org and here on ADAA.org on dealing with anxiety in kids.
Clean Up Their Diet - I don't care how much the children protest, it's so worth it for the harmony of the family to clean up their diets. This means, at a minimum, completely cutting out all high fructose corn syrup, food dyes and MSG. These 3 ingredients alone will change much of the normal American diet if cut out - but they play a huge part in inflammation of the body which increases anxiety. Other foods that increase inflammation are wheat, sugar, GMO foods, coffee and pasturized dairy.
Nutritional Therapy - just like drugs work, so do natural (i.e. unpatentable sources and ingredients) supplements. A good place to start in adding in "natural" medicine is to find a great source of fish oil to give at a therapeutic dose every day. This greatly helps with brain function and decreases depression in our experience. Also, consuming foods with healthy bacteria (full fat organic yogurt, kombucha, etc) and taking a daily probiotic will help heal the gut which is often sick in kids with anxiety. Dig into the research on what will best help your child (hint: it's usually the same things that will help adult anxiety as well), there are tons of places to look but Dr Mercola and Dr Axe both have dense websites with great information.
Consider Psychotherapy - family therapy (with parents and child) as well as therapy just for your child can potentially be a huge help. Sometimes we all need help learning how to think differently, learning how to breathe to control anxiety and learning how to control our minds in any way we can. Our family has greatly benefited from this.
What tips helped you deal with anxiety in kids? How do you avoid medication?
*I am obviously not a doctor, this article is just me sharing my experience to help you have a place to start when researching non-medication related ways of helping kids with anxiety.