Kids can be erratic and unpredictable. So how in the world can you discern when they might be dealing with an anxiety disorder? About one out of every eight children in the U.S. struggle with anxiety, but getting them support requires us to recognize what’s going on.
After all, it’s normal to experience occasional anxiety — at any age. But if it appears your child is being prevented from living a full life, obviously, the cause must be found.
To learn more about doing so, let’s take a quick look at some of the disorders children may struggle with. From there, we can zero in on common signs and symptoms.
- Generalized anxiety disorder: As the name implies, the issue here is not something specific. Their anxious feelings are chronic and generalized.
- Social anxiety disorder: This variation can leave them feeling paralyzed when having to deal with social situations. As a result, they will go to extremes to avoid such experiences.
- Panic disorder: When children have unexpected panic attacks on a regular basis, it could be a sign of a panic disorder.
- Separation anxiety disorder: Some kids — especially younger kids — have an extreme aversion to being away from parents or caregivers.
- Specific phobia: A child may have a severe reaction to something specific, e.g. crowds, insects, medical tests, etc. If so, this is a phobia.
- Selective mutism: Even though there is nothing physically wrong with them, hyper-anxious children can find it virtually impossible to speak in stressful situations.
Each type of disorder can have unique symptoms. Even so, anxiety tends to show its face in familiar ways across the board.
Some of the Common Signs of Anxiety in Children
The reasons for worrying are varied and many. The sign of a deeper issue is when the worrying is relentless and it has begun to hamper daily functioning. Listen carefully to what your child expresses. If they play it close to the vest, gently try to get them talking about what’s on their mind.
Restlessness and Irritability
Sure, this may describe at least half the kids in the world right now. But you’re looking for a vibe that is ongoing and dominating their behavior. This could mean, for example, anger, lack of concentration, distractibility, memory issues, and acting out.
Children of any age shouldn’t be expected to comprehend an anxiety disorder. So, rather than deal with it, they will try to avoid anything that triggers uncomfortable feelings. This can range from skipping school to turning down social invitations and beyond. What they really need is to develop coping skills so avoidance is a double whammy.
This is where it gets very tricky. Consider symptoms like headaches, digestive problems, fatigue, and shallow breathing (to name a few). How can you identify the source? What if these complaints are rooted in deep anxiety?
Another physical symptom that can become an issue arises when anxiety interrupts healthy sleep patterns. It’s an insidious cycle that is typically beyond a child’s understanding. Anxiety during the day causes sleep disturbances at night. The following day, operating on less-than-normal sleep, the child feels more distracted, irritable, and emotionally volatile.
Your Child Needs and Deserves Help
Amidst all of the above, keep in mind that anxiety disorders are very treatable — especially when they are identified early. As the parent, you have to strike a delicate balance. You want to give your kid room to experience the normal ups and downs of childhood. At the same time, you don’t want a potential anxiety disorder to go unchecked.
If you’re unsure, I invite you to schedule a free consultation so we can talk about what’s going on.