Many of the children and adults we see present with anxiety–related issues. These can take the form of inappropriate behaviours and/or physical and mental health issues.
Anxiety is an instinctive response to threat and fear. When faced with a threat, our sympathetic nervous system automatically prepares us for
“fight or flight”, enabling us to face, or run away from, the threat.
Occasional stress and anxiety are a normal part of life and involve a temporary worry or fear when faced with a stressful situation such as an exam, presentation, job interview etc. It is normal to feel anxious when facing something difficult and mild anxiety can have a beneficial effect on our performance in these circumstances by improving our concentration and giving us a little extra strength.
Issues arise when anxiety is excessive, for example because it is prolonged or severe and either happens for no apparent reason (“free-floating anxiety”) or is disproportionate to the event that has triggered it. Excessive anxiety can be debilitating and interfere with our daily functioning and day- to -day living. It can also have a detrimental effect on our confidence and self-esteem.
In our experience, excessive anxiety is often the result of a retained Moro reflex. This is because the Moro reflex can be triggered several times a day and activates the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.
Children and adults with a retained Moro reflex can find themselves in constant “fight or flight”, resulting in excessive levels of stress hormones and feelings of physical anxiety (tightness in the chest, racing heartbeat, shallow breathing, excessive perspiration and ”butterflies” in the stomach). Not knowing the source of these uncomfortable physical sensations can further add to the distress experienced and give rise to a sense that “something bad” is going to happen.
It can also affect our behaviour and make us feel different from other people, resulting in low self-esteem and lack of confidence. It is likely to affect our interaction with others and can contribute to us becoming socially isolated which in turn can affect our mood and lead to depressive feelings.
We might be aware that there is no logical reason for our anxiety yet won’t be able to control it (as the Moro reflex is an automatic, uncontrollable reaction) which can make us think there is something wrong with our mind. We can soon end up in a vicious cycle of anxiety.
We are sometimes asked why anxiety issues only surface at a later stage in life, such as adolescence. The answer is that many of us learn to compensate for our day- to- day anxiety (usually through our behaviour). However, this becomes more difficult when we are faced with stressful situations (e.g. sitting important exams) and also at times in our life that involve a major change, including changes in hormone levels. This can include starting secondary school, the onset of puberty, the prospect of leaving home, becoming a parent and menopause. Anxiety issues can often surface at these times.