When people think about anxiety they tend to imagine an adult man or woman trying to balance their life, but what many people ignore is that children can suffer from anxiety just like adults. Conditions of anxiety in a child can occur after a specific trauma like the death of a family member, because of genetics and brain chemistry, or learned behavior from living in an anxious family.
Anxiety can derive from different disorders, some of the most common are Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder, and even Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
Signs Of Anxiety In A Child
The signs of anxiety in a child can be a little different depending on the disorder, but there are common signs to look for.
The general symptoms of most anxiety disorders are:
- Excessive worry and fear.
- Constant negative thoughts.
- Insomnia, nightmares, or sleeping too much.
- Eating disorders
- Shaky legs, sweaty palms and a fast heartbeat.
- Constant crying.
- Poor concentration.
- Stomach aches.
- Feeling tense or playing too much with their hands.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
It’s characterized by having excessive worry about everything. In children this can manifest when they dread exams, homework, going out, or making mistakes. These kinds worry about things that parents don’t usually understand like going to parties, choosing the right clothes, and lunchtime. And they can also worry about major things like war, their future, their safety, and their health.
Always talk to your child and let your child know that they can trust you. Simply telling your child not to worry about those things because they’re to young won’t make it better, if anything, it will make it worse. Just by listening to them you are helping them.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia is a different form of anxiety. This happens when the child feels intense anxiety when they are in a social situation. This can be the school, the doctor’s appointment, the playground, or even a family reunion. Social phobia makes them worry about how others perceive them for fear of embarrassment.
Ask the child’s teacher if the child has friends a school or if they speak on class, most children with social phobia won’t have many friends and definitely won’t participate in class. These children will feel exhausted before and after a school day, they will sometimes make up excuses to avoid going to classes. Sometimes they can complain about the physical symptoms of anxiety, like feeling short out of breath, intense flushing, feeling lightheaded, and feeling a little jumpy.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Sometimes children will experience SAD, which is an intense anxiety derived from being away from the parents or the house. If you find your child being clingy, crying when you are not around, or feeling upset a lot, then watch out for the signs. They will refuse to go to school or any activity that involves separation from the parent, they could be having trouble sleeping alone and even refuse being in a room without the parent.
How Does Anxiety Affect Children?
Constant worry and fear can lead to sadness and even depression. It reduces the amount of life satisfaction your child gets from life and it will prevent them from enjoying activities with their peers. They will sometimes isolate, which will increase their levels of anxiety and depression.
Anxiety, especially in the mind of a child, can lead to low self-esteem and sometimes self-injury. They will constantly compare themselves to others. They are unable to make friends or to achieve their goals.
How Can I Help An Anxious Child?
If you found many signs of anxiety in a child, then it’s best to go to a professional child therapist that can diagnose your child with an anxiety disorder. Besides the professional help, you have to let your child know that they can trust you, otherwise you will be just making him be anxious about you and your thoughts as well.
Anxiety is a journey your child will have to travel. Don’t expect them to simply get over it, if they could do that, they would do it. What they can learn is to control it, so that it doesn’t ruin their life, and they can remember the joy of life. Be patient and reassure your child during this process. Be the hand they can rely on, not the hand they fear the most.
Author: Andrés Figuera