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  • Writer's pictureLiz Morrison, LCSW

Recognizing Anxiety Symptoms in Children

Recognizing Anxiety Symptoms in Children

When you think about the causes of anxiety, it always seems to be things that are dealt with in the world of an adult. It may seem odd to some that children could have any reason to be experiencing anxiety. They don’t have to worry about bills, their jobs, providing for a family, or whatever the future may hold for them. Instead, they get to play and be kids.

Because of this, many don’t even think about anxiety being a possibility when dealing with a child. The problem is made worse because, unlike the adult world, the world of a child doesn’t even recognize such an issue exists. In general, children don’t understand what anxiety is and therefore don’t talk about it.

So it is usually up to the adults to try and recognize anxiety symptoms in children. But what are the symptoms of anxiety that a child may display? Keep in mind that many of these symptoms are similar to things that a child may experience just from growing up and being a hormonal cocktail.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

If your child exhibits multiple symptoms from the following list you may want to think about having him or her checked by a mental health professional.

  • A sudden change in appetite: When children suddenly eat much more or much less than they usually do this may be a sign that something is wrong. They may also suddenly have an aversion to certain foods.

  • Excessive crying: If they cry without provocation and often.

  • Lack of concentration and bad memory: If children can’t focus on the task at hand and need to be constantly reminded about things because they can’t remember them, this could be a symptom of anxiety.

  • Problems with sleep: Children may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

  • Clinging excessively: When children can’t be left alone without finding ways to draw a parent’s attention, even negative attention like throwing a fit so their parent will come back and scold them, anxiety could be to blame.

  • Perfectionism: When children won’t allow even the smallest mistake in what they do, that could also be a symptom. An example would be marking out the same letter again and again until it looks exactly how they want it, or making sure that a marked out word is completely covered in ink so that it can’t be made out anymore.

  • Pessimism: Expecting the worst in every situation (“The house will catch on fire if we leave!” “The motor in the car made a weird noise, it’s going to explode!”) and refusing to look at things in a positive light could also be a sign.

  • Aggression: Even though they know that you’ll find out (or you may even be looking at them that very moment), they’ll act out their anger. This can be both from built-up aggression and from them attempting to get attention from you (albeit negative attention).

  • Physical pain: When children constantly complain about headaches, fatigue, stomachaches, etc. and the doctor has ruled out anything physical, this could be caused by anxiety.

  • Withdrawal: When their family sits down for dinner or gathers together to play a game, children may try to avoid interacting with the family.

  • Restlessness: If they can’t seem to stay still. A little bit of restlessness when you’re doing something “boring” (such as shopping) can be expected, but if it starts to consistently devolve into tantrums there may be more involved.

How can I help? If your child is struggling with symptoms of anxiety, they may benefit from an evaluation from a mental health professional. Call me at (347) 758-2985 for a free 15-minute phone consultation to discuss the concerns that you are having.

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