Anxiety is mental disorder affecting millions of people all over the world no matter of the age. When children are concerned the expression of anxiety is completely different than the one of the adults, and all because of their inability to express it properly.
Children may complain about the symptoms of anxiety they experience, but to the parents anxiety is the last thing that can occur to them as a cause of their children’s behavior.
Anxiety is a part of growing up in children, and its symptoms are a result of the “fight or flight” response of the body. Children have many experiences in their lives especially occurring in schools and these experiences are reflected in their behavior, eating and sleeping habits, causing fear, shyness, and so on.
PSYCOM maintains the following:
“Specific fears, worries, and anxious thoughts are common among children and adolescents. As kids grow and learn about the world around them, they begin to form their own thoughts and feelings about potential dangers and sources of stress. While many young children grapple with fears about the dark, dogs, and monsters (to name a few), older children can become anxious about death, loss, and personal safety.
Some anxiety among children and adolescents is a perfectly normal part of development. Some children, however, experience an overwhelming sense of anxiety and dread. Some experience symptoms of panic attacks. Some become so preoccupied with their triggers and symptoms that they struggle to attend to normal daily activities. Childhood anxiety can negatively impact life in school, family relationships, peer relationships, and even the physical health of the child.”
According to the data of ADAA – the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the occurrence of childhood anxiety gets increased and at the moment about 25.1% of children between the ages of 13 and 18 are suffering from this condition. In the report it is stated:
“Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse.”
This issue is not immediately addressed as the symptoms of anxiety in children are subtle and not immediately determined. Therefore, parents need to be very careful in monitoring the behavior of their children.
The experts like psychiatrist Veena Ahuja, MD, states the following:
“Many times, pain syndromes come along with depressive and anxiety symptoms. And if you first resolve any underlying medical issues, it helps with the depression and anxiety.”
Symptoms of Anxiety in Children
John Piacentini, Ph.D., and Lindsey Bergman, Ph.D, well-known experts on this issue from the UCLA Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Supports (CARES) Center, address the parents and specify the three most important areas where the symptoms of anxiety can appear:
Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety
Tantrums and meltdowns
Experiencing anxiety before or during tests
Becoming angry or grouchy without apparent reason
Worries about the distant future
Exaggerated fears and phobia
Having fears preventing them from playing
Obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours
Having nightmares that are often about losing a parent
Fear and worries during drop-offs
Fear of making mistakes
Behavioral Symptoms of Anxiety
If your child has issues in expressing its pain, mental or physical, then the following symptoms will be of great value for you:
Persistently asking the question: “What if?”
Makes all sorts of excuses just not to go school
Expressing anger or frustration when temporarily separating from parents or loved ones
Staying silent or preoccupied while group work
Remaining inside or alone during lunchtime or recess
Not taking part in class activities
The constant need of approval from parents, teachers, friends
Giving up even before trying
Avoids social interaction with its peers
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Not being able to fall or stay asleep
Hyperactivity, restlessness, distraction
Headaches or stomach aches
Not having his lunch at daycare or school
Avoids using restrooms anywhere except at home
The occurrence of sweating or shaking, in new, uncontrolled situations
As per the findings of Dr. John V. Campo from the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a physical condition like stomach pain in children can be related to depression and anxiety. In his study he involved the medical records of 80 children and adolescents. His analyses showed that over 43 of them with chronic stomach aches were children like in the following cases;
The medical records of patients with stomach aches showed that a large percentage of them were with a higher risk of behavioral problems.
The age of 9 was common for the children to develop anxiety disorders.
81% of the involved participants with stomach aches had issues with depression or other anxiety disorder.
79% of them suffered from an anxiety disorder like generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, or separation anxiety disorder.
43% of them had a diagnosis of some form of depression.
In a Korean conducted 2015 study, released in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics, showed the existence of relation between the experienced headaches and anxiety disorder and depression. In this study 720 children took part.
Here are the results:
“Nineteen patients had headaches and clinically significant total scores for psychiatric symptoms. The mean age at headache diagnosis was 11.7 years, and 57% were male. Mean duration of headache was 11.5 months. Two point eight percent of the patients were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders including major depression (1.7%) [and] generalized anxiety disorder (1.1%).”
Kathleen Smith, Ph.D., suggests the parents the following tips:
“Never hesitate to consult with professionals about your child’s anxiety, as they can guide you towards the right resources and conduct a proper assessment. Children with anxiety disorders are typically treated with talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help a child test out what thoughts they have are realistic or unrealistic.
Play therapy may work best for young children to work through anxieties. For some kids, medication may be prescribed in the short-term or the long-term, depending on the nature and severity of symptoms. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medication to treat anxiety disorders among children.”
“Parents can validate the child’s feelings but also model calmness and confidence that their child is going to be okay and can master scary situations like school or meeting new people. Also, because children are most anxious leading up to a challenging situation, it’s important for parents not to ask too many questions about the anxiety. “
Tips How to help your Child Suffering from Anxiety
- Show flexibility
- Try not to punish your child for the done mistakes
- Eliminate the trigger points of your child’s anxiety
- Carefully listen to your child and pay attention to its feelings
- Make sure to stay calm when your child is anxious
- Adapt according the current situation and lower your expectations during stressful periods
- Make necessary changes in your daily routines and plan for transitions
- Any accomplishment of your child is highly valued, therefore recognize it and praise its accomplishments no matter how little they can be.