While you may believe your child is too young to experience anxiety, it's sadly not exclusive to certain age groups. An anxiety disorder can make it difficult for your child to adapt if left untreated. And your child may not be able to identify his or her own anxiety. Therefore, you must be able to spot it yourself before it becomes problematic.
We’ve outlined common, identifiable symptoms of childhood anxiety to help you screen your child. We've also included a few tips on what to do after you’ve potentially identified anxiety in your child.
Here are six potential signs your child has an issue with anxiety:
1. They're having meltdowns.
Often, children with anxiety work so hard to hide their anxiety in public that when they get home, they can no longer control it. This leads to a meltdown or tantrum, according to the Child Mind Institute. Children with anxiety will frequently have episodes that they cannot control or understand to cope. Record your child’s outbursts and look for potential patterns, then bring this log to a healthcare professional if you seek treatment.
2. They have trouble sleeping.
While a lot of children debate their bedtime and may throw a fit when they don’t want to cooperate, children with anxiety can have a multitude of issues getting a good night’s sleep, according to Anxiety.org. They can experience a difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and frequent nightmares. Anxiety can also cause sleepwalking.
3. They have difficulty focusing in school.
If your child has severe issues focusing in class, you may automatically attribute it to ADD. But for some children, focus issues are caused by anxiety, according to Anxiety.org. Children with anxiety experience troubles in the classroom because they are too focused on the thoughts running through their minds to focus on their schoolwork. Anxiety can also distract children from other activities – such as sports practice or conversation.
4. They have Obsessive Compulsive tendencies.
Children may try to deal with their anxiety by developing rituals, according to Anxiety.org. These rituals may resemble those of people who develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). For example, children may become particular about their morning or nightly routines and may expect family members to follow the same pattern he or she does.
5. They're avoiding socialization.
The Child Mind Institute says children with anxiety will avoid socialization, especially in school. Children may even refuse to engage in group work, which could cause issues in the classroom with their teacher and their peers. While children may come off as being unengaged, they are actually triggered by activities that require socialization, such as presentations or sports in gym class.
6. They have certain physical complaints.
Having anxiety can lead to children experiencing various physical symptoms. Quite literally, children can worry themselves sick, according to Anxiety.org. Children may complain about dizziness, headaches, stomachaches, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and more.
What to do if you recognize these symptoms in your child.
If you notice these symptoms in your child and believe he or she may have anxiety, consult a child psychologist who has experience with childhood anxiety disorders.
If you are experiencing any difficulties dealing with your child’s anxiety, consult a support group for parents dealing with similar issues.
Listen to your child’s thoughts and be understanding and empathetic. Keep his or her teachers and coaches in the know and help them understand how to best handle outbursts or other symptoms your child exhibits. Do not automatically assume that your child will grow out of these behaviors, as he or she may not be able to.
Last but not least, do not blame yourself for an anxiety disorder. It is a medical condition, not a result of yourself or your parenting.