With the new school year approaching, many children and teenagers are experiencing a rush of varied emotions. Dr. Saleem Al Nuaimi, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with Hamad Medical Corporation's (HMC) Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) says while a certain amount of school-related anxiety is normal, parents need to monitor their children's behavior.
"The beginning of a new school year can be a challenging time for young people and can trigger severe stress and anxiety. Educational environments play a dominant role in young people's intellectual, emotional, and social development and children with mental disorders such as anxiety can face major challenges. It's important for parents to be vigilant and to carefully monitor their children," said Dr. Al Nuaimi.
While school anxiety is not a psychiatric diagnosis, when the condition is severe, it may be a symptom of an anxiety disorder and could signal the need for professional intervention. Worldwide, ten to twenty percent of children and adolescents experience some form of a mental disorder before the age of 18. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14. If untreated, these conditions severely influence children's development, their educational attainments, and their potential to live fulfilling and productive lives.
Dr. Al Nuaimi says while it can be difficult for parents to identify anxiety in children, common warning signs that a child may be distressed about returning to school include making excuses not to go and expressing worrisome thoughts.
"Some children who experience anxiety may refuse to go to school, or their anxiety may manifest in physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or diarrhea. Other children may repeatedly ask the same questions that center around troublesome thoughts such as 'What if I get a bad teacher?' or 'What if I get bullied?," said Dr. Al Nuaimi.
Dr. Al Nuaimi says it's normal for children to feel worried or anxious from time to time. He says anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns for children but says, unlike normal anxiety an anxiety disorder interferes with the child's school, home, and social life.
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