- How to spot childhood anxiety and what to do about it
- Childhood anxiety can be treated, but the challenge is to recognize it
- How does anxiety affect your child’s academics?
- What’s the most effective way to treat children with anxiety?
- All work and no play: Why your kids are anxious
- How can I cope with an anxious child?
- How to discipline a child with anxiety
- How to help your child with school anxiety
- Should my anxious child go on medication?
Every child faces anxiety sometimes, but recognizing when a child has an anxiety disorder can be a challenge. Treatments for children with anxiety disorder are available. If you can learn to spot the warning signs of anxiety, then you can start the process to get them the help they need. What are the warning signs of anxiety disorders in children and how can we recognize it?
Sleep, appetite, and grades affected can be signs of anxiety
Childhood can be filled with many anxious moments. Discovering new aspects of one’s world is exciting, but overwhelming. It is when these “natural” anxieties and fears start disrupting the child’s ability to live and/or destabilizing the child’s family dynamics that outside help needs to be sought.
For example, severe anxiety can disrupt a child’s sleep and appetite so they are more irritable to the point of defiance or they cannot concentrate on their school work. Their grades could start slipping because they sleep in class or forget to turn in their homework due to the brain “fogginess” caused by sleep deprivation. Put simply, when your child’s fears go outside of normal boundaries, it might be time to seek the intervention of a trained therapist or child psychologist.
ASD and ADD can be confused with anxiety or you may just get used to it
Childhood anxiety is tough to recognize because it often comes along with other conditions. Sometimes we see anxiety present with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder, so difficulty can lie in working out which behavior belongs to which condition.
Sometimes, which was our situation, you are so used to living with the daily stresses of an anxious child that you don’t recognize that everyone’s reality is not the same as yours. When you are concerned that anxiety may be an issue, visit your general practitioner as soon as possible. There are some simple assessments that can be run to give you some idea if it is anxiety that you are dealing with. I also suggest you seek support as soon as you are worried, as early intervention certainly makes the difference.
Behavioral or physical disorders can also be confused
Anxious children may initially be thought to have a behavioral disorder due to their withdrawal or their disruptive behavior. A child who seems oppositional or aggressive may be reacting to anxiety, which particularly in toddlers, they are unable to articulate effectively. They may not even be able to identify that they are feeling anxious.
Your child may experience symptoms such as a stomach ache or headache in response to feelings of anxiety and a physiological cause for these may need to be excluded before anxiety can be diagnosed. Likewise, a child who is unable to settle in class and is disruptive and frustrating seems hyperactive or inattentive, but is often anxious and needing reassurance.
Once anxiety has been recognized, then the tools required to manage the anxiety can be put in place. Therapists, parents, and teachers can implement strategies to teach coping skills and mechanisms that help them cope when they begin to feel anxious.
Is your child acting “normal”?
Anxiety disorders can look like many other disorders and challenges, such as defiance, illness, and fatigue, making it a challenge to diagnose. A child who is irritable may not be feeling well, or he or she may be expressing anxiety with symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches, or other illnesses. A child, who is acting out, showing defiance, refusing to do homework, chores, or go to school, may be telling you through his or her behavior, that anxiety is a real challenge.
Every child is different, and every child will express their anxiety in different ways. The key is to know when your child isn’t acting like themselves. Or if they have always been this way, how to tell the difference between normal childhood worries and a more serious problem. If you have any concerns about your child’s health or behavior, take the first step to talk to your pediatrician. They can help you get your child into the right treatment to help them thrive.