Researchers want to find out why some children develop more severe anxiety than others.Biological, social and psychological risk factors may play a role
As children return to school from vacation and daily stress begins to mount, Brock researchers warn that anxiety can interfere with cognitive performance — even in children.
Associate Professor Aida Tekok Kilic of the Department of Children and Youth and PhD candidate Veronika Panchcin say that, like adults, children and adolescents who experience worry and anxiety can experience psychological symptoms such as irritability, It says it may exhibit physical symptoms such as sleep disturbances. , and experience social and academic challenges.
Researchers want to find out why some children develop more severe anxiety than others. They believe individual biological, social, and psychological risk factors are involved.
“There are multiple factors that influence how anxiety relates to cognition,” says Tekok-Kilic, founding director of Brock’s Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory and Cognition and Anxiety Laboratory at Pathstone Children’s Mental Health Research Institute. . “This relationship is also multidirectional, and anxiety can lead to cognitive deficits, but these cognitive deficits can also predict anxiety.”
Panchyshyn explains that anxious thoughts compete with other tasks, such as schoolwork, and at the same time require attention and can be draining.
“Anxious thoughts can be very distracting when someone with anxiety is completing a cognitively demanding task like an exam question,” she says. It consumes memory and prevents you from fully concentrating on the task at hand.”
She said that anxiety in academic settings can be misinterpreted as poor academic performance, from difficulty separating from parents at drop-off to avoiding turning in homework that is “judged” by teachers. This is especially true for children experiencing test anxiety, which can begin as early as second grade.
Researchers say it’s normal for children to react to stressful events, but children whose reactions are severe or persistent may need additional support. Common symptoms may include constant worrying, difficulty concentrating, irritability, or avoidance of daily activities such as going to school or seeing friends.
They also say that parents should pay attention to warning signs that can appear after a traumatic stressor.
“Uncertainty related to COVID-19 is one of the stressors that can cause anxiety in some children and young people,” said Tekok-Kilic. “It’s important for parents to contextualize this uncertainty so their children feel supported and understood.”
She also says that children look to their parents’ reactions and actions to determine how to control their emotions in difficult situations.
“It’s important to help children understand that uncertainty is part of life and to help them develop strategies to deal with it.” It’s about validating the child’s concerns so that they feel supported in the.”