If you thought that anxiety disorders are only prevalent in adults, you were wrong. Children often experience anxious feelings at certain times. For example, kids might feel worried when they are commencing their school life or relocating to a new area. Anxiety refers to an emotion of uneasiness. It is normal for a child to feel anxious. However, in some kids, anxiety gets to another level, affecting their daily life and behavior. This might influence their school, social, and home life. My son, for example is so anxious about fire alarms that he has nightmares because of them. He feels really uneasy at the day care place he is currently, but fortunately it is just a temporary place during the holiday season when his regular day care place is closed. But if you notice that your child is no longer the kid you knew, it is best to seek professional assistance.
Does your child have anxiety?
As the parent, it is your responsibility to know your child and recognize when they are having health problems. When do you know when the child becomes obsessively anxious? There are a number of signs, which can inform you that the child is suffering from anxiety. To start with, if your child is having difficulties concentrating in school or at home, they might be anxious. Interrupted sleep patterns and bad dreams are also signs of a child suffering from anxiety. In addition, if the child is not eating as they previously did, it should signal something to you.
At certain times, children can be irritable. However, when the behavior gets out of hand, you may have to take the child to a therapist. In addition, if they are always having negative thoughts or are constantly worried, they may have an anxiety disorder. A child that uses the toilet often and they are fidgety, might be victims of anxiety. When your little one becomes clingier than necessary or they are crying at all times, anxiety can be their problem. Lastly, if they are always complaining of being unwell or have tummy aches, it might mean that they are struggling with anxious emotions.
In some cases, your child may not be in a position to speak out about the way they are feeling. Children are not necessarily able to verbally describe the complex and surprising emotions they are going through. Furthermore, the feeling of anxiety will vary from one kid to another depending on their age. Since you are the parent or the guardian, it is important to learn ways through which children exhibit anxiety. Read on!
Fear about something
It is normal for children to have fear about some things. They can be dogs, monsters, water, darkness and the list is endless. Or like my son, fire alarms. Actually, it would surprise you to know that it is an integral part of child development. However, this fear can transform to a phobia. This is also a variety of anxiety disorder. Fear can become overwhelming, affecting your kid’s daily life. It is for you to look at your child closely in order to notice when they are having phobia. This will enable you to help them accordingly.
Here, I must share a personal anecdote: my childhood was very secure and there were no big changes. I had a loving mom and dad, we were living in the same house in the same town all my childhood years. (Well, my parents are still living in that house.) My mom made me to follow strict daily routines that helped tremendously. But I was anxious to death. I was afraid of everything. I mean everything. And without any reason.
I was afraid of abstract things like the dark, but also concrete items like radiators, mangle (I thought it will come and catch me in the night), TV (I thought it will suck me in!), I was afraid of trees falling on me. I hardly was able to go to toilet myself – the drain could have sucked me in as well!
I was afraid of death. I thought I will have an asthma attack (no, I didn’t have asthma…) and suffocate to death. Slowly and painfully. Moreover, I thought I will die in the night. Every evening I asked my mom: “Mom, will I die this night?”. Now, that must have been a nightmare for my mom! I spent most of my nights in my parents’ bed until I was some 10 years old. Talk about privacy for my parents! I really feel sorry for them now.
Anxious for no apparent reason
Although it is normal for children to have worries and fears frequently as they grow up, some might develop generalized anxiety disorder in the long term. The condition can remain until they are at their adolescent stage and sometimes to their adulthood, especially if they are not treated. The generalized anxiety disorder makes the child to feel anxious about diverse issues and circumstances. When a child is suffering from this disorder, they tend to be anxious most of the times. I was anxious and phobic with no apparent reason. It’s not that unusual after all.
Separation anxiety in children often occurs when they are separated from their parents or their caregiver. The child feels worried anytime the parent or the care taker is not within reach. It is a common disorder in young children. It develops when they are six months of age. The disorder can affect the child until they are old enough to get into school. The kids often find it hard to adapt to their new environment in school. It can also be difficult for a child who has been living with their parent for most of their lives to stay with a child minder. When the disorder is manifested in older children, it can mean that they are anxious about something. For example, it might be because of unprecedented changes at home or school.
Sometimes there are no easily understandable reasons behind the separation anxiety. My son, who is currently four, has always suffered from some kind of separation anxiety. I can hardly go to toilet without him, and it’s completely out of the question that I would be able to go somewhere for longer time. No overnight visits anywhere. On the other hand, I suffered from separation anxiety as well when I was kid. I remember how bad I felt if my mom had a meeting in the evening and was spending a few hours away from home. But like my son, I didn’t have any problems in staying at the day care all the day.
Anxious in social places
If your child dreads to go out in the open or public, they may be suffering from social anxiety disorder. They may refuse to play with their peers or be reluctant to conduct activities at home or in school. Feeling shy when in social places is normal for most children and adolescents. However, it can become an anxiety disorder with time. For instance, if a child feels anxious when they are carrying out their daily activities including when making a phone conversation or shopping. The children lack confidence, when they are in social places. They feel that they will be humiliated if they spoke out. Mostly, social anxiety disorder affects children who have undergone puberty stage. It affected me, too.
Anxiety in schools
When children are starting their school life, they might feel worried about the new environment. They also have mixed emotions about the school community, which they become a part of. Nevertheless, if your child is anxious about making friendships in school, doing their schoolwork or worse still attending school, you should be worried. This often happens when they change schools or when transiting to the next class. Your child will not tell you about these feelings and neither will be able to know about their stay in school. Nonetheless, there is a way you can find out if the child has school-based anxiety. They are likely to lie about feeling unwell or having tummy aches. In order to achieve the best results in school, this problem need to be addressed.
I had my first panic attacks at school, when I was maybe some 9-10 years old. At that time nobody was talking about panic attacks and it took me years before I found out that other people have them as well, and they are after all nothing uncommon.
Not all anxiety manifestations in your child are normal. As a parent, if you notice that the anxiety problem does not make go away, it is important you take them to a professional. In addition, when you recognize that the problem is affecting the child’s development or its influencing their relationships and school life, be sure to seek help. Lastly, if the child is anxious on a frequent basis, it is enough reason to seek help for them.
Luckily nowadays there are effective methods to treat child anxiety. When I was kid, I was just talking about weather with the psychologists, obviously without any improvement in my condition. Also my OCD symptoms were ignored. When it comes to my kid and his fears and anxiety, I have been benefiting a lot from this Turnaround Anxiety program. You might want to check it, too. It also helped me understand the anxieties and fears I had as a kid. How I wish that program had existed when I was kid and so overanxious! It certainly would have helped my parents who must have suffered as well.
Even I managed to overcome my anxiety and panic attacks, it took over 30 years. I make sure my son has all the possible help that he needs, so that he doesn’t have to suffer that long. I hope you care about your kid, too, and do everything to help her.