Anxiety Symptoms in Children
Anxiety symptoms in young children
Anxiety symptoms can look very different in younger kids than in adults. It can be difficult determining what is developmentally normal and what should be cause for concern. Likewise some worry and stress is not problematic.
Asking for reassurance repeatedly
Examples of young children asking for reassurance may look like them repeatedly asking you to look over their homework, even though they’ve made no errors. Some children who are looking for reassurance will repeatedly call home from school to hear from their parents that they’re okay. They may want to be told that he or she is a good boy or girl. Asking for reassurance is a queue for parents that their child is worrying about what they are asking for reassurance with. Asking for reassurance is a common anxiety symptom.
Trouble sleeping at night
Many children have trouble sleeping for lots of different reasons. One reason why some children struggle with sleep is that they are unable to let go things that they are worrying about. Kids who worry to the point where it interferes with sleep may have anxiety. I previously wrote a blog post about how to help children with anxiety sleep better.
This is not always thought of as an anxiety symptom. It can be difficult to tell why a child is not able to attend or concentrate at school. Some children have neurodevelopmental disorder like Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD) and have difficulty attending. However, kids who are worrying or preoccupied with anxious thoughts at school may also have trouble concentrating.
Restlessness or being on edge
Some anxious children just seem to explode out of nowhere. They may seem irritable or grumpy. Children who are chronically worried are oftentimes overwhelmed. For a child with an anxiety a seemingly mild or small stressor may be just enough to overwhelm what they were previously just barely managing to handle.
Most common anxiety disorders and their symptoms
Separation Anxiety – Age inappropriate stress and anxiety over separating from caregiver. This sort of anxiety interferes with a child’s ability to actually separate, or how they function when they have separated. Some children with separation anxiety disorder cannot separate to attend school or daycare, or need to sleep in their parent’s bed at night.
Generalized Anxiety – This is one the most common anxiety disorders in children. These children worry excessively about many things like school, health, safety or family members. They may always think of the worst that could happen. Some children have physical symptoms, like headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or tiredness
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – This is commonly thought of when people think of veterans coming back from war. PTSD in children can be result of any number of traumatic events, such as a car crash, physical or sexual abuse, being exposed to violence, medical trauma, the list goes on. Common symptoms of PTSD in children include always being on the lookout, thinking about the traumatic thing that happened when they don’t want to, sleep disturbances, fear or avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event.
Social Anxiety – This is often characterized by children avoiding or becoming distressed in situations where are required to interact with others. Social anxiety can be triggered in children when they’re required to speak or perform in front of others.
Phobias – These are intense, often irrational fears of people, places or things. Common phobias include driving, dogs, flying on an airplanes or heights. Children with phobias desperately avoid, or become distressed when exposed to whatever they fear.
If you’d like to talk with someone about your child’s anxiety symptoms contact us now for a free consultation.
Jeff LaPonsie LMSW
Jeff LaPonsie is a clinical social worker at Kalamazoo Child and Family Counseling, PLLC. He provides counseling to children and families in the Kalamazoo, Portage, and South West Michigan area. He is passionate about helping challenging children and frustrated parents. Jeff has over seven years of experience working with at risk youth. His clinical expertise includes working with children with behavioral, anxiety, attachment and trauma related disorders.