Anxiety and other mental health issues are reported to affect more children now than they ever have before. Some would argue that we’re actually just more aware or mental health issues and so more children are being diagnosed. However, at the same time, no one can deny that children today are under more pressure than previous generations.
Homework and exam pressure builds from a much younger age. Kids are also much more aware of the world around them. Children have a growing access to the internet and social media, which can lead to feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, and a need to compete or compare their lives to others. Because of this, it’s important that parents can recognize the symptoms of anxiety so we can help our children as soon as possible.
Sometimes the physical symptoms of anxiety are mistaken for other things or unnoticed. This is because they can be very hard to spot and children may be quite good at hiding them. Some things you might notice include:
- Complaining of a stomach ache or a headache. If your child is frequently complaining of aches or pains but there doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong, consult your doctor as it could be a sign of an emotional problem. You may also notice a pattern to when these complaints occur.
- Refusing to eat. You might find their eating pattern is normal at home but their teacher reports they’re not eating well at school, or perhaps even refusing food.
- Sweating or nervousness. Children often get nervous in new situations. But, if this nervousness is leading to sweating or shaking, it’s not normal.
- If a child over 6 suddenly starts to exhibit ADHD type symptoms including fidgeting, inability to concentrate, and hyperactivity, this could be a sign of anxiety.
The emotional symptoms of childhood anxiety are easier to identify. You might find your child is behaving more sensitively than usual, crying more often, or reacting to situations in an over the top manner. They might get angry, aggressive, or scared of something to an unnecessary level. This could lead to panic attacks, nightmares, and tantrums. Other emotional symptoms may include moodiness and distraction.
When it comes to your child’s behavior, one of the first things you may notice is that they start avoiding activities, especially in groups, that they used to enjoy. This could be anything from playing to eating with other people. You might find that at these times they sit quietly on their own or become emotional. Your child may refuse to go to school or avoid other children when they are there. Other symptoms could include seeking constant reassurance, doubting their own abilities, and asking lots of “what if…” questions.
If you are concerned, speak to your child’s teacher to see if they have any worries. Whatever you do, don’t ignore these symptoms. Contact adolescent therapists for further advice on how to help.
It’s important to remember than most children will have a few of these symptoms occasionally and that’s nothing to worry about. You need to start worrying when your child seems to be experiencing a lot of these symptoms all at the same time.