Just as adults often suffer from anxiety, children and teens may as well. Sometimes this anxiety is brought on by stressful or traumatic events, but often a specific stressor cannot be identified.
While there are many anxiety disorders, the more common ones in children and adolescents are Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder. These children worry a lot and have trouble in social situations. In very young children, anxiety often manifests itself as Separation Anxiety Disorder and Specific Phobia. These symptoms often include great reluctance of separating from caregivers and various, seemingly unjustified fears.
Children react to the symptoms differently than adults with similar anxiety problems which can make diagnosis very difficult. It can also be hard to differentiate between a “phase” or rational concern and a true disorder. In either case, it can greatly interfere with a child’s sense of well-being and achievement in school.
According to Chris Burke, school liaison from The Guidance Center in Franklin, Tennessee, some common anxiety red flags are:
“what if” fears about things far in the future – repetitive questions about these concerns
perfectionism, excessive self criticism, fear of making mistakes and self blame
easily distressed or agitated when in a stressful situation – may break down and become inconsolable
headaches, stomach aches, disruptions of sleep, nightmares, refusal to sleep alone
physical signs of stress when anxious such as sweating, heavy breathing, racing heart, blush of face or neck
overly responsible, people pleasing, unnecessary apologizing
avoidance of activities such as school, religious activities, family gatherings, vacations, errands, even friends’ houses
Untreated anxiety can lead to social isolation as well as depression. Once diagnosed, your doctor may be able to help with or without medications. The symptoms may even be side effects of a medication your child is already taking.
If you feel that your child might be suffering from an anxiety disorder, you might first investigate his or her behaviors at school. Getting input from those who observe your child daily in a different atmosphere can be helpful. If your child’s teachers are seeing similar things, it would be wise to pursue your concerns further with a doctor. He or she will be better able to make an appropriate diagnosis with information from all involved.