At what point in childhood does anxiety begin, and how can we help kids to overcome this increasingly common state?

Cast your mind back tens of thousands of years to when our primitive ancestors were fending for themselves in the wild. Hunting animals was crucial for survival and there was the ever-present threat of danger.

During these times, the human amygdala, otherwise known as the lizard brain, was extremely useful. It would alert us when danger was present and fear was necessary, provoking a fight or flight response.

While the human experience and intellect has evolved significantly, Clinical Psychologist and Director of Northfields Clinic at the University of Wollongong, Mark Donovan, explains our amygdala continues to serve us in the same way – for our survival and self-preservation.

“Our bodies are basically set up so that they react before you’ve even registered the nature of the threat. Your heart’s going, your lungs are going, adrenaline’s coursing through your body and you’re prepared to deal with a life and death situation.

“So that’s what anxiety is, but of course most of the threats in our current world aren’t life and death,” he says. “We should be much more frightened of stepping into a car or turning on a light switch because these are the things that are more likely to cause damage these days. But we haven’t evolved to be fearful of those yet.

“Anxiety is a normal response to a threat and it’s a very important normal response, because if there truly is a threat, then we need to do something about it.”

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