Anxiety, Stress, Agitation and Insomnia in Children


Anxiety disorders are a unique group of diseases that make people’s lives full of unmotivated agitation, worries and persistent, excessive and unreasonable fears. They include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Attacks
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
  • Specific Phobias

Anxiety disorders are a real and serious health conditions, but can be treated.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generally the term “anxiety” is often used improperly, referring to general apprehension conditions, widespread and persistent tension, nervousness and stress, so common in everyday life, that have nothing to do with the true and proper psychiatric disorder.
The pathological anxiety is not just a transient disordes, but an abnormal reaction that interferes seriously with the psycho-intellectual performance, preventing to fix your mind on issues and specific situations and process them, limiting the ability to do usual activities.
Understanding the causes of a generalized anxiety disorder is not always easy. Anxiety does not necessarily occurs in response to external stimuli, but stressful events or generally unfavorable environment can unlock or aggravate the demonstrations. Usually a busy lifestyle (frenetic work pace, abuse of psychotropic substances) and hereditary genetic factors can affect people were causing more or less severe anxiety. It was also demonstrated that the origin of anxiety disorder, just like depression, is linked to the altered functioning of certain brain circuits, not yet fully known, but that at least in part involve the system of serotonin and norepinephrine.

The anxiety disorder can manifest at any time of life, often at a particularly critical transition periods or when you are faced with difficult choices. It mainly affects women (affected twice as often than men), children and the elderly (especially with chronic diseases).

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Unlike in the case of depression, get to generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis is quite simple because the symptoms are easily recognizable and discomfort experienced leads patients to seek medical attention relatively quickly. In addition to psychological symptoms, such as agitation and irritability, anxiety syndrome is associated generally to insomnia, appetite changes and a series of physical manifestations and mental and physical characteristics that may affect one or more organs simultaneously and reduce the quality of life so significant. Among these there are:

  • Aches and muscle contractures, tendency to tighten their teeth during the day (grinding) and during the night (bruxism), trembling voice
  • • Ringing in the ears, blurred vision, flushing, localized pain with no obvious organic cause
  • Tachycardia, palpitations, pain in the center of the chest, pressure drops, irregular pulse.
  • Sense of constriction and tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, feeling of suffocation.
  • Increased frequency of urination, menstrual disorders and sexual desire.
  • Difficulty swallowing, indigestion, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
  • Headache, dizziness, increased sweating, flushing or paleness, decreased salivation.
  • Constant or recurrent worry, unjustified or for trivial reasons, pessimism.
  • Irritability, inability to relax, hypersensitivity to stimuli and thrills, tearfulness, specific phobias.
  • Insomnia with difficulty falling asleep or sleep interrupted by nightmares, problems with concentration, reduced storage capacity, weakness.

In the presence of this kind of events, for a first general test, you can refer to the family doctor, but to get a correct diagnosis of anxiety disorder, precisely define the severity and find the most appropriate therapeutic strategy, you should consult a specialist.
In order to issue a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in adults must be present at least three psychophysical symptoms among those listed in addition to anxiety and persistent worry and not commensurate with the actual severity of the events or without the triggering causes. The set of events must be present for at least six months, for much of the time. In children, it takes only one additional physical and psychological symptoms and the duration of the events necessary for the diagnosis may be less.

Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There are many ways to counteract the generalized anxiety disorder:
Relaxation Techniques

Useful to alleviate some mild forms of anxiety and stress These include massage, yoga, warm baths, deep breathing and acupuncture techniques. But also listening to favorite music, a swim or a walk in nature can lead to significant improvements in the level of tension.
When these countermeasures are insufficient and the state of alert is also associated with sleep disorders, you can find additional help in some natural active ingredients that can positively influence the functions of the neural circuits that control stress reactions. The extracts of lime, chamomile, mallow, escolzia, valerian, hawthorn, passionflower or mixtures of these plants are the most proven and effective herbal remedies to allay tension and promote sleep. However, it is appropriate to use certified preparations sold in pharmacies, and tell your doctor before you start using them, especially if you are already using drugs against anxiety, or for the treatment of other diseases during pregnancy and lactation or if to need is a baby.

Drug therapy

When the doctor considers that to counteract this form of anxiety is necessary to resort to medication, the most useful active principles belong to the class of antidepressants, particularly SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors of the system). SSRIs are well tolerated drugs and generally they not cause significant side effects, but to obtain the maximum benefits are to be used carefully following the instructions of the specialist with respect to dosages and timing of intake. To observe an improvement in anxiety symptoms you need to have a little patience because the anxiolytic effect of SSRIs is not immediate, but it appears on average after 2-4 weeks from initiation. Got the benefit, then the treatment should not be interrupted as long as the doctor considers it appropriate. Generally, this happens after a few weeks or months. To avoid rebound effects, ie exacerbation of anxiety symptoms, the abandonment of the drugs should always be done gradually, with progressive reductions in the amount taken, and be monitored by your doctor. In the small proportion of patients whose anxiety disorder is so intense as to deserve a pharmacological intervention by the immediate tranquilizing effects, your doctor may prescribe compounds of the benzodiazepine class, taken for no longer than 2-3 weeks with SSRIs, in waiting for it to manifest fully the action of the latter. Benzodiazepines drugs are delicate to handle, since associated with a number of side effects and contraindications, as well as the ability to induce tolerance and physical and psychological dependence. To avoid a worsening of anxiety, the discontinuation of benzodiazepine should be gradual, with progressive dose reduction.

Psychotherapeutic Approach

The drugs are very helpful to alleviate the acute manifestations of anxiety disorder and promote the overcoming, but to solve the long term problem is also necessary to carry out a job of processing and adaptation to anxiety-inducing stimuli, making use of a psychological support. In this context, the technique that has been shown to be able to determine the greatest benefits is behavioral therapy aimed at “deconditioning from anxiety-provoking stimulus”, ie to loosen the bond between the critical situation and the patient’s anxious reaction. This strategy envisages that the anxious person, rather than avoid them, is gradually exposing to the stressful events, analyze them with the help of an expert and process them in a positive light to indent the experience in a normal context and deal with it better in other opportunities.

The doctor choose the most suitable in each case, possibly combining them, in relation to the severity and duration of the disturbances, the characteristics and age of the patient, to his willingness to engage in treatment and expectations with respect to clinical outcomes. Then there are the supporting interventions to these treatments when followed consistently can certainly improve their condition:

  • Follow a regular rhythm of life
  • Sleep a sufficient number of hours each night
  • Making healthy food
  • Drill moderate physical activity every day
  • Avoid excessive working stress and carve out small breaks to relax during the day
  • Take all therapies prescribed by a doctor regularly, to the indicated dose
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and drinks with caffeine
  • No smoking or try to reduce the number of regular cigarettes
  • Attend groups of self-help and share its experience with other people with a similar problem


Stress is the most common disorder of our times that can bring with it a number of other disorders such as insomnia and stomach ulcer.
Typically the body is able to adapt to changes. When this does not occur because the stress prevails then the body reacts by increasing the secretion of certain hormones and inhibiting others. At the same time the production is compromised messenger substances such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
The root causes of stress can be many and vary from person to person. In fact, the stressful events that may cause physical and psychological consequences are encompassed in a different way depending on personal sensitivity. However, there are some factors that inevitably cause common stress such as:

  • Rhythms of life and intense work
  • Infatile trauma
  • Deaths of loved ones
  • Separation and divorce
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Dangerous situations
  • Financial problems
  • Personal health problems or people close

The symptoms of stress are obvious: frequent feeling of general fatigue, increased heart rate, sleep disorders, muscle pain, stomach ulcer, diarrhea, stomach cramps, colitis, thyroid dysfunction, difficulty expressing concepts, dull sensation in against every situation, frequent urination, change in voice, hyperactivity, mental confusion, irritability, lower immune response.


Insomnia is a common sleep disorder which is the inability to fall asleep or in the condition in which the sleeping patterns are abnormal enough to interfere with the proper functioning of physical, mental and emotional, and can be a symptom of other diseases. Insomnia is the clinical term used for people who:

  • Have difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep
  • Wake up too early in the morning,
  • Wake up without feeling rested

The causes of insomnia can be of different nature. Often stress or anxiety are the most common but also a series of other problems, especially those with type psychosocial (such as in the workplace conflicting reports), depression, abuse of stimulants, disease and physical pain, taking certain medications, food allergies, environmental disturbances, the presence of habitual snoring associated with sleep apnea and jet lag can cause insomnia.
For insomnia conditioning it means instead a frequent form of chronic insomnia characterized by pervasive fear of not being able to sleep; a kind of vicious circle whereby the fear of not sleeping translates into real actual insomnia caused first by a disturbing event, then dall’insinuarsi of fear to spend another sleepless night. This is reflected emotional activation, which brings the subject to fall asleep more easily when you do not strength to do so, such as when watching television.

The symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep or waking up constantly during the night are to be evaluated according to the frequency. In fact one of the most common ways to classify insomnia is referring to the duration of symptoms: defining transient one that lasts less than a month, in the short term if it lasts for 1-6 months and chronic if it lasts more than six months.
Depending on when you wake up you then speaks of initial insomnia, transient or terminal.
It is known that in almost all psychiatric disorders is also some form of sleep disorder, and unlike people with chronic insomnia are at high risk of developing an anxiety disorder. In fact, generally those suffering from anxiety, has excessive stress, lingering concerns, obsessive thoughts, gastrointestinal problems and nightmares can hardly maintain a quality of optimal sleep and certainly also suffer from insomnia. Even the use of some antidepressants commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders, can cause sleep disorders.

Insufficient sleep can cause other risks besides fatigue. Can lead to poor performance at work or at school, increase the risk of injury and increase the risk of health problems.
Those who suffer from sleep disorders may in fact be at risk for heart disease: heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke, hypertension, and diabetes. In addition, some researchers even argue that adults who sleep less than six hours a night are exposed to 50% more likely to become obese than those who sleep seven to eight hours a night.
Also during sleep the body produces important hormones: A major release of growth hormone, which improves muscle mass and ability to repair cells and tissues in children and adults, and other types of hormones that improve the activity of the immune system to various infections. This is why a good night’s sleep helps prevent health disorders and promotes recovery during periods of illness.

Diagnosis, Care and Remedies for Anxiety, Stress and Insomnia

For those suffering from insomnia is important to consult your doctor or specialist to report their symptoms and get an accurate diagnosis and determine the primary causes and conditions that may contribute to a sleep disorder or an anxiety disorder, so you determine the most appropriate treatment plan. To determine whether it is primary insomnia or a minor annoyance to other disease, you can also use diagnostic tests such as EEG or polysomnography, a specific test for brain function and targeted to investigate cardiovascular and respiratory parameters.
Insomnia occurs in many different ways, which is why it is classified clinically taking into account at least three parameters: duration, causes and types.

To treat insomnia first is important to adopt the behavioral changes in lifestyle that can somehow help getting to sleep, the quality and duration of sleep. Even the power plays an important role. It would be appropriate to consume foods that can balance the nervous system and exert sedative and calming action. Will be excluded packaged foods, those rich in sugars and sweeteners and sweetened drinks.
There are for example three important amino acids contained in the animal and vegetable proteins, with a higher percentage in soybeans including:

  • Histidine – It promotes a calming and relaxing effect on the mental level
  • Tryptophan – It is the serotonin precursor. Anxious people often have a shortage of serotonin in the blood, tryptophan along with B vitamins and vitamin C are important in maintaining the mental and emotional balance.
  • Glycine – It acts at the level of the spinal cord by controlling the motor alteration they face anxious people.
  • Equally important are then Taurine, an amino acid that the body can synthesize for itself, present in the central nervous system, and the B vitamins contained in whole grains and brewer’s yeast, which contain chromium too useful in combating anxiety.

During stress is incurred more easily in dehydration, it should therefore be increased water consumption between meals, but also organic herbal teas.
Caffeine and alcohol should be consumed in moderation and avoided as early as late afternoon not to affect nighttime sleep. Resorting to alcohol to relax is a common mistake and counterproductive, as it can help getting to sleep, but not the quality and duration of sleep.

Medications should always be assessed on a case by case basis with your doctor, as they are not always the best choice to overcome the difficulties; the effectiveness decreases over time and, in parallel, increasing the risk of addiction. In these cases it is however of fundamental importance to learn to manage anxiety and fear, possibly with the help of a specialist.
There are also some herbal remedies used for insomnia that help to relax the nervous system or muscular or circulatory, gently reconciling sleep; others have sleep-inducing action, favor the numbness and maintain prolonged sleep, improving its quality.
Among the plants and relaxing that induce sleep there are:

  • Melissa

    Whose leaves are rich in essential oil, Chamomile and exert a calming effect on anxiety, and muscle relaxant on the apparatus. Is particularly suitable, therefore, in the presence of a framework of general irritability, insomnia caused by excessive fatigue, nervousness, premenstrual syndrome, spasms and muscle tension.

  • Passionflower

    Whose airline partners have sedative, tranquilizing and anxiolytic, and make the plant an extremely effective remedy for insomnia, as they stimulate sleep without nocturnal awakenings, without producing a sense of numbness in the morning, and narcotic effects or addiction. It is indicated in cases of stress, anxiety and feelings of anguish, in the forms of hysterical neurosis, phobic, obsessive and traumatic post.

  • Hawthorn and Lime

    They act as spasmolytics, sedatives and anti-anxiety natural. Their hypotensive and calming action on the cardiovascular system is useful in cases of insomnia, especially in very nervous patients, in whom it reduces the emotional, tachycardia, palpitations, agitation and anxiety.

  • Valerian

    Whose roots have sedative, hypnotic and relaxing, as they reduce the time needed to fall asleep and improve sleep quality. Therefore it is indicated in all sleep disorders and for treating anxiety.

  • Escolzia

    It is indicated for anxiety, stress, sleep disorders (insomnia, night awakenings), psychosomatic disorders, irritability, mood decline, the psychic pain, nervousness due to the active ingredients in its aerial parts which decrease the period falling asleep, ensuring a good quality of sleep without sudden awakenings.

  • Hops

    It is commonly used for its calming effect on the nervous system and for its sedative action to improve sleep.

  • Griffonia

    Whose seeds are a source of 5-HT, serotonin precursor, so have antidepressant properties and regulates the sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) improving the quality of sleep. The use of the plant proved also useful for the control of the nervous hunger, linked to states of anxiety and stress.

  • Rodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

    Whose root is extremely effective to combat fatigue, and fatigue, improves sleep quality, and has cardioprotective effect, useful in states of stress, tachycardia, palpitations, anxiety and nervousness.

  • Maca (Lepidium meyenii)

    Whose root is of great help to combat stress-related disorders, such as decreased libido and sexual asthenia in both sexes. These revitalizing and aphrodisiac properties are due to the presence of a stimulating action components on the endocrine glands, especially the adrenals, ovaries and testes

Of particular importance is finally the Melatonin, a hormone produced by the body. When it is used as a drug is synthesized artificially in the laboratory and is available commercially in the form of tablets, drops and also in other forms to dissolve in the mouth or under the tongue. In this way it can be absorbed faster by the body so.
It is used to regulate sleep-wake cycle, for example, to combat jet lag, insomnia, even as an aid to sleep in people who stop taking benzodiazepines (used as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety drugs) and to decrease the symptoms of ‘withdrawal when you stop smoking. It is also used in depression, as calming and also to counteract some side effects of chemotherapy.

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