Does My Child Have An Anxiety Disorder?

While it’s normal for kids to be a little nervous sometimes, unexplained fear and constant nervousness over everyday situations may indicate an underlying anxiety disorder that shouldn’t be left untreated. Have you noticed that your child seems more anxious or nervous than others their age? Check out these symptoms and signs that your child may have anxiety or another mental health disorder.

Anxiety Symptoms in Children

  1. Your child frequently feels physically ill. Headaches, stomachaches, and a general feeling of being unwell can be physical symptoms of anxiety. If your child often doesn’t feel well and you can’t find a legitimate physical reason for their symptoms, it’s likely that anxiety or another mental health disorder, such as depression or PTSD, is the culprit.
  2. Your child has trouble sleeping. They might find it challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep, or they may have nightmares that wake them up in the middle of the night. It’s important to note that these types of symptoms can also be a sign of other mental illnesses including PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is a mental health problem that can develop after a traumatic event. Typically, PTSD arises after a child experienced injury, violence, or harm. In children, PTSD often presents with nightmares, bedwetting, and symptoms similar to those of anxiety. Click here to learn more about PTSD.
  3. Your child is irritable and prone to angry outbursts. Although you may not associate irritation and anger with anxiety, they can result from the feeling of being “on edge” with constant worry. Angry outbursts can be a way of expressing the stress your child feels inside.
  4. Your child doesn’t have proper eating habits. Perhaps they don’t eat much, or maybe they turn to lots of snacks when they’re feeling particularly anxious. Changing habits in relation to food can be a sign of anxiety or other mental health disorders.
  5. Your child struggles to concentrate. Concentration doesn’t just apply to school and homework; your child might also find it challenging to pay attention for the duration of a movie or an episode of a television show. They might also have trouble reading for fun due to issues with concentration and focus. They might even seem “spaced out” during conversation because of their inability to concentrate properly. A lack of focus and concentration can point to an underlying anxiety disorder.
  6. Your child constantly worries and has negative thoughts. These are two hallmarks of anxiety. If your child worries about everything under the sun and always believes the worst possible outcome is inevitable, it’s very possible they have an underlying anxiety disorder. 
  7. Your child is extremely tense and fidgety. Muscle tension is a physical symptom of anxiety, and fidgeting can be a way to release feelings of nervousness and anxiety.
  8. Your child is very clingy and cries often. If your child hates being separated from you and cries at the drop of a hat, that’s often a sign that there are underlying psychological problems such as anxiety. Although it may seem like your child is simply being needy and overdramatic, these types of behaviors are likely a response to the anxiety they’re experiencing. 

What should I do if I think my child has anxiety?

It’s always a good idea to speak with your child directly about their feelings. Don’t laugh or brush off their emotions; instead, take them seriously, validate their emotions, and let your child know you’re there for them. Then it’s a good idea to check out mental health resources in your area. There’s a good chance your child’s school has a counselor who can either work with them or give them additional resources. You can also do a simple Google search for “child therapist near me.” Be sure to choose a therapist that has experience working with children, rather than a professional who has only worked with adults in the past.

Even if it turns out that your child does not have an anxiety disorder, therapy can still be very helpful in teaching lifelong coping skills and life skills such as effective communication and problem-solving. It also teaches self-awareness, fosters self-confidence, and can help your child grow into a more well-adjusted adult. If you feel that your child may need help from a mental health professional, don’t delay in scheduling a session!

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