Recognizing The Signs Of Anxiety In Children
Most parents have watched their children or teens struggle through bouts of anxiety. Anxiety itself is a natural part of growing up, as children learn to socialize away from the comforts of home and teens navigate the rough waters of adolescence.
Still, some parents will notice that their kids’ experiences with anxiety aren’t “normal” at all; they seem to be part of a larger, more serious, problem.
Is there a way to distinguish between “normal” anxiety and serious anxiety? If you’re a concerned parent, is there a way to confirm that your hunch is more than just intuition?
The answer to both questions is yes. First, begin by understanding how serious anxiety functions. Then learn to recognize common signs of serious anxiety and how they impact kids’ daily lives.
Let’s take a look here.
What Is Anxiety?
When parents sense their kids dealing with those “normal” bouts of anxiety, they’re probably noticing what the American Psychiatric Association (APA) would define as “a normal reaction to stress.” Coping with stress is a natural part of life.
But, the APA says, extreme stress or anxiety is not so natural. When a person’s fears or worries cause persistent, uncontrollable anxieties, he or she may be struggling with an anxiety disorder.
Kids might feel overwhelmed by intense feelings and emotions, making it difficult for them to participate in activities or communicate with people around them. They might feel persistently burdened, or they might be overcome by sudden anxiety attacks. Anxieties can focus on situations in everyday life or the prospects of unlikely events occurring.
An anxiety disorder places a major obstacle in children’s and teens’ ability to function normally. Clinical neuropsychologist Ken Schuster says that anxiety can seriously hamper kids’ performance and development in school, as anxious kids become shut off from teachers and other students.
Recognizing signs of anxiety in kids early, as well as accessing the right support, will help them manage their anxieties so that they can have the best school experience possible.
How To Recognize Common Signs Of Anxiety In Children
At first glance, signs of anxiety in kids can be mistaken for laziness, defiance or even a learning disability. If this is your first conclusion, but you have an intuition that something more is going on with your child or teen, follow your instinct. These characteristics might be symptoms of anxiety.
Common signs of anxiety in kids could appear as changes in routines, behaviors or emotions occur. You might notice a range of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Indifference to socializing
- Loss of interest in activities
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Blushing when “put on the spot”
- Excessive worry or fear
- Difficulty concentrating
- Intense nervousness
Demonstrating some of these symptoms occasionally may not be a sign of serious anxiety. But, these symptoms could be a sign of serious anxiety if you notice that they are:
- Persistent, occurring over a long period
- Disruptive, inhibiting your child’s or teen’s everyday interactions or activities
- Excessive or out of control
- Unusual for your child’s or teen’s age
As a parent, you probably have a good idea of how these symptoms have an impact at home. But, consider all aspects of your child’s or teen’s life, particularly at school. Anxiety can have major consequences in their overall school experience.
How Anxiety Can Impact Kids’ School Experience
Anxiety can interfere with the ways kids participate in everyday situations and social interactions. This can make their overall school experience, where they do a lot of important learning and socializing, very difficult.
If your child or teen is struggling with anxiety, you might notice certain red flags, which indicate that his or her school experience is suffering. These red flags might include:
Extreme difficulty socializing
Children and teens with social anxiety become severely anxious about conversing with or interacting with school peers. Participating in class, eating lunch in a busy cafeteria or running around at recess can be very difficult for them, causing them to shut down.
Trouble separating from caregivers
Children who cry excessively, throw tantrums, or harbor extreme fear about leaving the comfort of their caregiver might have difficulty participating in class. In many cases, they might struggle with separation anxiety.
Constant, irrational worries
Children or teens with specific phobias or with obsessive-compulsive disorder worry or fear about certain situations on a grand scale. These thoughts might interfere with their ability to concentrate on schoolwork or participate in daily activities.
Avoidance of activities or situations
Children and teens might start avoiding school or activities altogether. Reasons for this could include post-traumatic stress disorder, experience with panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety, and more.
Experiencing the benefits of social, emotional and academic growth, which comes with the school experience, is crucial for children and teens.
So, seeking support from a counselor or mental health professional could help you and your child or teen prevent further serious struggle. Professional help equips both kids and parents with effective coping skills and strategies, which enables children to manage anxiety in a healthily.
How You Can Manage Signs Of Anxiety In Kids
Coping with anxiety can be a long road, but with the right support, you and your child(ren) can manage it. You can help your kids by being their bedrock of support at home.