Anxiety and Children: Signs and Symptoms that Parents Should Know

Jennifer March, MS

The lesser-known symptoms of anxiety that children experience.

Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.

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Since the age of 7, I have had anxiety. Growing up, I always felt the need to make sure things were okay. I noticed things I needed to worry about. I worried about them because I genuinely believed that no one else would worry and everything would be ruined.

There were things that I felt that I needed to worry about — or else who would?

As a child, I always worried about leaving the dryer on while we left the house. I remember going out to lunch, just down the street from where we lived, with my mom. I couldn’t focus on anything. I was so terrified that I would see firefighters racing up the road towards my house.

I was scared that my house would burn down because I did not choose to stay home to watch the dryer. I didn’t even do much laundry at that age; I just believed that bad things would happen.

But all of this really got me thinking. What were the signs and symptoms of anxiety in children that aren’t well known? What makes adult anxiety different from childhood anxiety.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety in children

Not all children can express how they feel. So if a child has a lot of anxiety, they may not share that with their parents. There are many different reasons why a child may not share their feelings:

  • they don’t know what anxiety is
  • they cannot express it through words
  • they are embarrassed

From a child’s perspective, they have no idea what they are feeling is abnormal. All the child knows is worry — and that needs to be stopped. But how can we tell that a child has anxiety? Anxiety can present in physical symptoms and other behavioral symptoms, such as:

  • trouble sleeping
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • stomachaches

Anxiety in general is a broad topic that covers many different types of anxiety.

Types of anxiety

Anxiety is more of an umbrella term. There are three different types of stress that children will commonly have:

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety occurs when a child is distraught and upset when separated from their primary caregiver. Separation anxiety from 6 months to 3 years of age is normal, but beyond that, it is unusual.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety occurs within social situations and Teenagers are more likely to suffer from social anxiety throughout all the developmental age groups.

Specific phobia

A specific phobia is when someone experiences anxiety around a specific circumstance. Phobias can range from fear of dogs and germs to heights and flying. Phobias can develop for a number of reasons.

If you would like to learn more about childhood anxiety, I highly encourage you to visit Child Mind.

Over time, anxiety can cause children to become isolative, develop lowered self-esteem, and begin to avoid stressors. Children avoiding stressors to cope with their anxiety will cause further issues as they grow up.

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Knowing the signs of anxiety in children, and promoting positive mental health behaviors can help your children. Of course, if you have concerns or see signs of anxiety in your child, it’s best to see their doctor.

Keep your children close, and learn about who they are. Make sure that you leave an open room for dialogue.

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As Originally Posted on Medium

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Psych nerd turned freelance writer | MS in Psychology | Mom of two cats and some house plants | #MentalHealthAdvocate #BeKind

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