Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety in a Child

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Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety in a Child
Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety in a Child
Apr 20, 2022

Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety in a Child

Anxiety disorders are some of the most common psychiatric illnesses impacting children and adolescents. Usually, children who struggle with anxiety disorders experience obstacles in their social lives, family relationships, or academics. Although anxiety disorders are prevalent among youth, classifying and recognizing types of anxiety and core causes of the disorder can be a challenge. As a parent, it is essential to stay attentive to your child's mental health and learn how to recognize potential anxiety symptoms.

Signs of Anxiety in Children

Children may experience fear and worry, which can leave them feeling sad and hopeless. When fear and sorrow progress and become extreme or unmanageable, it could be due to anxiety. Signs of anxiety to look out for in children include:

  • Difficulty concentrating in class
  • Unable to sleep through the night 
  • Nightmares
  • Bad eating habits or not eating
  • Quick to anger or agitation
  • Easily annoyed
  • Feeling tense
  • A loss of control during outbursts
  • Continuous worrying
  • Frequent crying
  • Clingy around parents
  • Avoiding certain situations
  • Extremely self-conscious
  • Frequent headaches
  • Using the bathroom often due to stomachaches

Anxiety symptoms can disturb the child's behavior and thoughts, causing an interruption in their schoolwork, home life, and social experiences. If anxiety interferes with the child's daily routine, professional help is needed to determine what type of anxiety disorder the child has. Diagnosing the correct condition ensures the doctor can treat it properly.

Types of Anxiety Disorders in Children

Anxiety can look different in each child, and there are many different types of anxiety disorders that children can develop.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, separation anxiety disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders in children. Those with separation anxiety disorder feel highly anxious if they are required to be away from their parents, caregivers, or anyone significant in their life. Symptoms include:

  • Worry that parents will get sick or pass away
  • Nightmares about separation
  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of sleeping
  • Physical symptoms such as a headache or stomachache before an expected separation

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder usually starts in childhood. A persistent fear of social situations categorizes social anxiety disorder. Children with this type of anxiety feel very self-conscious, fearful, or embarrassed around unfamiliar people, places, or experiences. They will avoid speaking out in classrooms or other social settings. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling anxious when participating in social events
  • Worry that others will see their anxiety and judge them
  • Tantrums or crying
  • Physical symptoms like shaking, sweating, or difficulty breathing in social situations

Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is a psychiatric condition characterized by a failure to speak in specific social situations, such as school, while being able to talk in other cases, like at home. Children with selective mutism experience anxiety that makes them feel frozen and prevents them from being able to speak due to the level of social pressure they feel. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty at school or social events
  • Able to talk in some situations, but not others
  • Being crippled by anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Children with generalized anxiety disorder worry about day-to-day problems without real cause. They worry about things such as health, family members, or school. Children become highly concerned about their performances in school activities or about natural disasters. Symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Feeling on edge
  • Feeling angry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems concentrating
  • Physical symptoms such as shortness of breath or pain

Panic Disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), panic disorder and panic attacks are two of the most common issues seen in psychiatry. Recurring and unanticipated panic attacks are what characterize panic disorders. Symptoms include: 

  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Children with obsessive-compulsive disorder have unwanted thoughts that make them feel upset and anxious. They may create rules and believe they must follow them to control their anxiety or prevent disaster. Symptoms include:

  • Impulsivity
  • Rage or aggressive behavior
  • Fears about cleanliness
  • A need for constant reassurance

How to Help Your Anxious Child 

Anxiety in children can go unnoticed by parents, teachers, or other adults in the children's lives. Many children feel big emotions that are hard to understand and difficult to express. Parents or other caretakers need to create environments where children can learn to control and express their emotions in a healthy and safe way.

If your child is struggling with anxiety, there are many ways to help them. Knowing how to recognize the signs of stress and anxiety is the first step to helping your child.

When children experience anxiety symptoms, their fears can seem overwhelming to them. Your child may have temporary concerns that will go away after some time has passed. However, if your child is continuously anxious and not getting better with self-help strategies, or anxiety starts to impact aspects of their life in school, friendships, or family it may be time to seek a professional opinion and ensure your child receives the help needed. In the meantime, talk to your child about their anxiety or worries, so they understand that they are okay. 

Everyone has worries. They may concern a loved one’s health or how others perceive them. For someone who struggles with an anxiety disorder, the overwhelmed sensation of panic, fear, and worry occurs regularly and can disrupt the natural flow of everyday life. At Achieve Medical Center, we understand the havoc anxiety can wreak on your mental well-being, and we want to help. Achieve Medical Center’s team of psychiatrists can help you or your child overcome the impact anxiety has had on your life. We offer an inclusive and caring mental health program for children, adolescents, and adults in California, Oregon, and Alaska. We acknowledge each patient has unique needs and use various diagnostic tools to help you or your child overcome panic, fear, and worry in your life. If you or a loved one have an anxiety disorder or shows signs of an anxiety disorder, call us today at (619) 381-8249.