Boys & Anxiety (w Dr. Mary Wilde)

How much do you know about boys & anxiety?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 7% of American children between ages 3-17 have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Likely, the actual prevalence of anxiety is significantly higher, because many kids — especially boys — are undiagnosed. What looks like anger, opposition or teenage angst may actually be an anxiety disorder. Sometimes, anxiety is expressed physically; boys with anxiety may have headaches, stomachaches or other maladies that interfere with their ability to participate fully in every day life.

Of course, we’re all feeling a bit anxious these days. Living through a pandemic will do that. But “the commonness of anxiety doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed,” says Dr. Mary Wilde, an integrative pediatrician and mom of 8 boys. “Anxiety, untreated or unaddressed, can lead to depression.”

Statistically, girls are more likely than boys to be diagnosed with anxiety and seek help for anxiety. Boys, in part due to social conditioning, are more likely to hide their anxiety or attempt to “power through.” Boys’ anxiety may show up as difficulty sleeping, anger or acting out.

Teaching boys how to recognize and manage their anxiety can change their lives — and yours. Yoga, deep breathing and tapping are just a few of the non-medication modalities Dr. Mary uses to help boys with anxiety. It’s a good idea, she says, to teach boys a variety of techniques, so they can choose the ones that work best for them.

Parents need to be conscious of the way they respond to their anxious boys as well.

“The tricky thing about anxiety is that parents need to parent in a way that’s counterintuitive,” Dr. Mary says. “They feel like their job is to bring comfort, ease and happiness, so of course they try to create this ideal context, but they don’t realize that in creating this ideal context, they’re sending a message to their kids that says, ‘I don’t believe you can handle it, and therefore I’m going to custom make your environment.'”

Dr. Mary — mom to 8 boys — also shares her Top 4 Tips for Parenting Boys: 

  1. Insist on respectful behavior from your boys.
  2. Stuff is stuff. People are more important than things.
  3. Provide opportunities for service.
  4. Your job is to give your kids opportunities for apprenticeship, to learn alongside you. (Role modeling is key!)

In this episode, Jen, Janet & Mary discuss:
  • Integrative medicine
  • Identifying “normal” anxiety vs. problematic anxiety
  • Symptoms of anxiety in boys
  • Why to seek help for anxiety
  • The 4 components of emotional intelligence
  • Talking to boys about anxiety
  • How physical movement helps boys with anxiety
  • Non-medication treatment options for anxiety
  • A family approach to anxiety
  • Dealing with your anxiety
  • Using stories to teach emotional intelligence
  • How your boys can benefit from an imperfect life
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

Dr. Mary’s “Overcoming Childhood Anxiety” course — SPECIAL OFFER available to ON BOYS listeners – Dr. Mary’s website

Imagine Pediatrics Behavioral Health & Wellness — Dr. Mary’s clinical practice

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by Dr. John Ratey — book mentioned at 13:45

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, by Brenda Ueland — book mentioned at 45:45

Faithful Nurturing: Mothering from the Heart, to the Heart, by Mary Wilde — Mary’s book

Dealing with Change, Anxiety & Energy (Listener Q&A) — ON BOYS episode

Helping Teens Cope with Anxiety, Depression and More — ON BOYS episode

Anxiety & Depression in Boys — ON BOYS episode