16 Child Anxiety Signs: Is Your Child Struggling With Worry?

by | Jun 9, 2022 | 0 comments

Do you have a child that is struggling with worry?

Or maybe they are not acting like themselves and you’re not sure what’s going on.

It can be really stressful trying to support a child who is feeling different and acting differently. It was changes in behavior that first alerted me to the fact that my daughter may be dealing with anxiety.

Otherwise, there’s not much you can do to help your kiddo if you don’t know what’s wrong!

That’s why I wanted to go over the signs of child anxiety. Sometimes just knowing or recognizing symptoms is all you need to take those first steps to help your child out.

If any of these signs seem familiar, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor. They can use your observations combined with your child’s medical history to help determine the best course of action for your child.

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Common Types of Child Anxiety

Of course, there can’t just be one type of childhood anxiety!

However, knowing what type of anxiety your child is dealing with can be really beneficial when it comes to figuring out how to help them.

Here are some common types of child anxiety:

Generalized Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) refers to excessive fear and worry that lasts for longer than six months and is triggered by a variety of things such as school, activities, and the fear of failure.

Symptoms of GAD in children can include having difficulties controlling emotions. This is because they can’t figure out where their anxiety is coming from so they end up having emotional outbursts.

Other symptoms include sleep issues and trouble concentrating.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is pretty common in children, especially younger ones between the ages of 2 and 3, but it usually goes away as your child grows and develops.

This type of anxiety involves an often exaggerated fear that something bad will happen to you when you’re child is away from you. They may refuse to go anywhere without you or become distressed when you drop them off at daycare or with other adults.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks aren’t that common among children and mostly happen during the teenage years. Either way, they involve sudden and intense feelings of fear that result in physical symptoms such as dizziness and chest pains.

Children and teenagers who suffer from panic attacks may also experience depersonalization where they feel detached from themselves.

Phobias

Children can also experience phobias which are intense and specific fears associated with certain objects, people, or situations. Sometimes they are warranted and caused by traumatic experiences but sometimes they are inexplicable.

For instance, my daughter claims she has arachnophobia (a fear of spiders) and gets extremely tense when she sees one. However, she has never had a bad experience with a spider.

Children usually grow out of inexplicable phobias as they get older. However, for phobias with a genuine cause, they may have them for the rest of their lives with the possibility of having less intense reactions to them.

Child Anxiety Signs

1. Anger

While children aren’t that great at regulating their emotions in the first place, having anxiety will likely cause them to become inexplicably angry or angrier than usual.

2. Avoidant Behavior

Anyone with anxiety is going to naturally attempt to avoid the situation that causes them anxiety. You may notice your child refusing to go to school (which we’ll look at in the next point) or refusing to partake in certain activities.

The important thing about this symptom is that you have to try and not give in as much as you can. Every time you allow your child to avoid an activity or situation that makes them anxious, their brain is telling them that this is a sure-fire way to not have to deal with anxious feelings.

3. Refusing To Go To School

So while this is an avoidant behavior, it’s worth noting as its own symptom when it comes to children.

They are either refusing to go to school because something about school is making them anxious or they feel that staying home is the best way to feel safe and avoid anxious feelings altogether.

Either way, it’s important that you don’t cave to this refusal. Not only is education extremely important but you don’t want to reinforce this behavior.

Talk to your child’s teacher and the school guidance counselor. Together, you guys can come up with a strategy to help your child face their anxious feelings while at school

4. Trouble at School

Calls from the teacher and slipping report cards are clear child anxiety signs that something is wrong. Even though I will mention trouble concentration as a symptom, it can be hard to notice unless you look at the results of that struggle.

Again, talk to your child’s teacher to see if you can determine why they are having trouble at school. It could be anxiety or it could be another factor that is affecting their performance.

5. Bedwetting

Bedwetting is a common sign that something is wrong in your child’s life.

This has very little to do with regressed potty training and more to do with sleep. Anxious children sometimes don’t sleep that well and, as a result, may have difficulty falling asleep.

Because they get fewer hours of rest each night, they could be falling into a deeper sleep which can lead to bedwetting.

6. Nightmares

Nightmares can also be caused by anxiety or any situation where a child is experiencing stress or dealing with a change. Unsettling events can cause unsettling dreams.

You can’t stop nightmares from happening but you can encourage happier reams by establishing a regular evening routine before bed that helps them slow down and feel safe.

Avoiding scary shows and stories before bed can help as well.

7. Changes in Appetite

As children get older, you’re going to notice an increase in appetite as their bodies grow. However, a decrease in appetite can be a sign of child anxiety.

Because excessive worry and fear can trigger physical symptoms such as stomach upset, this can lead to a lack of appetite.

If your child is otherwise healthy, continue to encourage them to eat and offer foods they enjoy. If the lack of appetite causes weight loss or other health issues, it’s time to see a doctor.

8. Fatigue

Being worried all of the time can be exhausting, so it’s no wonder that one sign of childhood anxiety is fatigue. Your child may feel tired, exhausted, and lack energy during the day.

While the best way to combat fatigue is to address the anxiety causing it, you can also support your child by encouraging physical activity, ensuring they get plenty of rest, and providing them with a healthy diet.

9. Nervous Habits

Even adults develop nervous habits when dealing with anxiety. These can include fidgeting, biting nails, teeth grinding, and chewing on objects.

These are typically self-soothing behaviors your child will exhibit in an effort to calm their anxiety.

While dealing with the anxiety is the best way to address nervous habits, just make sure your child is engaging in behaviors that are harmful or damaging.

10. Irritability

Imagine feeling fearful and unsettled but not being able to explain why or figure out how to make it stop.

This is what children with anxiety experience. As adults, we have a better understanding of emotions and what causes them so we have a better chance of figuring out what’s going on.

Children do not so if they are dealing with anxiety, they may become irritable and frustrated over the smallest things.

11. Restlessness

Being restless is often described as feeling “on edge” or having an uncomfortable urge to move. This is actually directly related to our innate fight-or-flight system our bodies use to deal with stress.

If your child is restless due to anxiety, they may benefit from practicing skills such as meditation or doing breathing exercises throughout the day.

Regular exercise is another great way to calm restlessness in children.

12. Muscle Tension

If your child experiences panic attacks (which we’ll talk about below), they may experience muscle tension where their bodies become stiff until the attack has subsided.

Relaxation techniques are a great way to deal with the discomfort caused by muscle tension.

13. Stomachaches

As I mentioned above when talking about appetite, anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as stomach pain.

This is because the body releases a stress hormone called cortisol which causes the body to produce more stomach acid than is needed. This excess stomach acid can lead to discomfort and pain.

14. Headaches

Apart from pumping out cortisol when stressed, our bodies use different ways to prepare for anxiety and worry by remaining in a state of increased alertness – which can lead to headaches.

Headaches are common for children dealing with anxiety. You can help your little one by offering over-the-counter children’s medicine as well as helping them relax and giving them a safe and calming space to hang out in.

15. Trouble Sleeping

Again, having trouble sleeping is a common sign of childhood anxiety. Now that we know that the body likes to kick it into overdrive and become super-alert when stressed, it’s no wonder children with anxiety have a hard time sleeping.

Apart from a bedtime routine and creating a quiet space for them to sleep, you can also talk to your doctor about giving your child melatonin. This natural supplement boosts the brain’s sleepy hormones and may help your child get to sleep.

16. Trouble Concentrating

As I mentioned before, these symptoms may be hard to spot unless you find yourself repeating questions and comments to your child over and over again.

Otherwise, pay attention to their performance in school. This is likely going to be a good indicator of whether or not your child is having difficulties concentrating.

Child Anxiety Treatment

Child Anxiety Medication

Deciding whether or not child anxiety medication is necessary is really up to your doctor. However, before going down this route, I would suggest trying other methods of treatment first.

Managing Symptoms

Now that you know the child anxiety signs, you can address each one as they happen. Sometimes, managing symptoms is a good way to address your child’s anxiety and help them develop healthy coping skills.

You can also indirectly address their symptoms by encouraging a healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious meals, daily exercise, and good sleep hygiene.

Calming Techniques

Another way of developing healthy copy skills for your child with anxiety is to teach them calming techniques. I’m currently doing a program with my daughter that teaches us calming skills to help her deal with her anxiety.

Some helpful calming techniques include:

  • Belly breathing
  • Positive thinking
  • Creating a special and safe place in their mind
  • Muscle relaxation

Practice and model these calming techniques with your child and encourage their use whenever they are feeling nervous, stressed, or anxious.

Therapy

At the end of the day, if you are struggling to help your child manage their anxieties, there’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to get your child to open up so that the cause of their anxiety can be determined and they can start to deal with their struggle.

When to Worry About Child Anxiety

Knowing your child has anxiety isn’t necessarily a mental health emergency. Anxiety is common among that age group and understanding the symptoms, learning calming techniques, and supporting your child are usually all you need to work through it.

However, there are some instances when you should worry about child anxiety.

Here are some situations where you should seek help immediately:

  • Their symptoms are seriously getting in the way of their everyday life.
  • Their overall health is noticeably affected.
  • They talk about suicide and/or self-harm.
  • They talk about harming others.
  • They refuse to leave the house.

In extremely serious situations, you can take your child to the emergency room or call your local mobile mental health. Otherwise, you can book an appointment with your family doctor.

Child Anxiety Signs: Explained

No one wants their child to struggle with anxiety but addressing it sooner rather than later is going to help your little one learn how to deal with adversity and lead a healthy and happy life!

I know just calling my daughter’s anxiety what it was and implementing strategies has made a huge difference in her happiness level and behaviors.

So I hope knowing the signs of child anxiety helps you as well!

How do you help your child cope with anxiety? Share your tips in the comments below!

And Don’t Forget to Pin!

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