Just as adults often suffer from anxiety, children and teens can too. Sometimes this anxiety is triggered by stressful or traumatic events, but often a specific stressor cannot be identified.
While there are many anxiety disorders, the most common in children and adolescents are generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. These children worry a lot and have problems in social situations. In very young children, anxiety often manifests as a separation anxiety disorder and a specific phobia. These symptoms often include a great reluctance to separate from caregivers and various seemingly unjustified fears.
Children react to symptoms differently than adults with similar anxiety problems, which can make diagnosis very difficult. It can also be difficult to tell the difference between a rational “phase” or worry and a true disorder. In either case, it can greatly interfere with a child’s sense of well-being and school performance.
According to Chris Burke, school liaison for The Guidance Center in Franklin, Tennessee, some common anxiety red flags include:
“What if” fears about distant things in the future: repetitive questions about these concerns
perfectionism, excessive self-criticism, fear of making mistakes, and self-blame
becomes easily distressed or agitated when in a stressful situation; can break and become inconsolable
headaches, stomach aches, sleep interruptions, nightmares, refusal to sleep alone
physical signs of stress when you are anxious, such as sweating, heavy breathing, racing heart, flushing of the face or neck
overly responsible, complacent people, unnecessary apologies
avoiding activities like school, religious activities, family gatherings, vacations, errands, and even friends’ houses
Untreated anxiety can lead to social isolation and depression. Once diagnosed, your doctor can help you with or without medication. Symptoms can even be side effects of a medicine your child is already taking.
If you think your child might be suffering from an anxiety disorder, you can first investigate his behavior at school. It can be helpful to receive feedback from those who observe your child daily in a different atmosphere. If your child’s teachers are seeing similar things, it would be wise to follow up their concerns with a doctor. He or she will be in a better position to make a proper diagnosis with the information of everyone involved.