Anxiety: Anxiety in children
Anxiety in Children:
Anxiety in children and adolescents. Anxiety Guide

Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. All about anxiety in children. Discover the guide of anxiety for children and adolescents. Success to reduce anxiety in children and college. Anxiety in children.

What is anxiety in children?

All children experience some anxiety; this is normal and expected. For example, when left alone at preschool for the first time, many children will show distress; a young child with his or her own room may develop a fear of the dark. Such anxiety becomes a problem when it interrupts a child’s normal activities, like attending school and making friends or sleeping. Persistent and intense anxiety that disrupts daily routine is a mental health problem that requires intervention

What are the most common anxiety disorders in children?

There are several types of anxiety disorders. The list below describes those most common to children.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder — Children with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have recurring fears and worries that they find difficult to control. They worry about almost everything—school, sports, being on time, even natural disasters. They may be restless, irritable, tense, or easily tired, and they may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. Children with GAD are usually eager to please others and may be “perfectionists,” dissatisfied with their own less-than-perfect performance.

Separation Anxiety Disorder — Children with separation anxiety disorder have intense anxiety about being away from home or caregivers that affects their ability to function socially and in school. These children have a great need to stay at home or be close to their parents. Children with this disorder may worry excessively about their parents when they are apart from them. When they are together, the child may cling to parents, refuse to go to school, or be afraid to sleep alone. Repeated nightmares about separation and physical symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches are also common in children with separation anxiety disorder.

Social Phobia — Social phobia usually emerges in the mid-teens and typically does not affect young children. Young people with this disorder have a constant fear of social or performance situations such as speaking in class or eating in public. This fear is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or muscle tenseness. Young people with this disorder typically respond to these feelings by avoiding the feared situation. For example, they may stay home from school or avoid parties. Young people with social phobia are often overly sensitive to criticism, have trouble being assertive, and suffer from low self-esteem. Social phobia can be limited to specific situations, so the adolescent may fear dating and recreational events but be confident in academic and work situations.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder — Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) typically begins in early childhood or adolescence. Children with OCD have frequent and uncontrollable thoughts (called “obsessions”) and may perform routines or rituals (called “compulsions”) in an attempt to eliminate the thoughts. Those with the disorder often repeat behaviors to avoid some imagined consequence. For example, a compulsion common to people with OCD is excessive hand washing due to a fear of germs. Other common compulsions include counting, repeating words silently, and rechecking completed tasks. In the case of OCD, these obsessions and compulsions take up so much time that they interfere with daily living and cause a young person a great deal of anxiety.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — Children who experience a physical or emotional trauma such as witnessing a shooting or disaster, surviving physical or sexual abuse, or being in a car accident may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children are more easily traumatized than adults. An event that may not be traumatic to an adult—such as a bumpy plane ride—might be traumatic to a child. A child may “re-experience” the trauma through nightmares, constant thoughts about what happened, or reenacting the event while playing. A child with PTSD will experience symptoms of general anxiety, including irritability or trouble sleeping and eating. Children may exhibit other symptoms such as being easily startled.

Why children may become anxious

Yes, there are many anxious children around…

There are many anxious children in United States. Most parents today will worry if their eight year old does not want to have any friends or their teenager has trouble sleeping. They know that their child is anxious, and they want to help their child.

On the other hand, anxious children may be quiet or easy to please. The parent or teacher may think that this child has no problems. It may be just the opposite! A child may also be boastful and appear over-confident to hide his anxiety. This is why it is so important that parents talk often and lovingly to their children. Children will more likely communicate with their parents when parents invite children to communicate with them on any matter.

Children have powerful emotions

All children, whatever their age, have powerful emotions. The world for young children can be a frightening place. Many young children have nightmares.

Children are aware of what is happening around them even if they are not able to put their feelings into words. They do know however if there is anger in the home, and they do worry when they feel that they are not loved. It is not enough to tell a child that you love him. It is very important that you show the child that you love him. Actions speak much louder than words.

Fears are common in young children. Usually children grow out of their fears but sometimes childish fears persist as the child grows up. For example, there are plenty of adults who fear lizards, even though the lizards do not harm them.

Children can develop anxiety at any age, but they are especially anxious during early childhood, and again during puberty. Unless you know your child very well, it can be difficult to decide if the child is anxious. For example, a child who is crying may be cold, hot or hungry.

Why do children become anxious?

Sometimes the child is anxious because he or she lives with anxious people. Remember that children live what they learn!

There are other reasons why children become anxious

1. Being Sick or Disabled. A child can become very anxious if he is ill.
2. Having Family Problems. Young children feel insecure when they hear their parents quarreling.
3. Having Troubles with other Children. Bullying is common in schools.
4. Troubles with School. Many children become depressed if they do not get good grades.
5. Remember – All ‘Difficult’ Children Are Children With Problems.

Life Skills Activity: 7 ways that you can help an anxious child

Parents can help their children by offering them reassurance that everything is all right.

1. Try to make sure that small children get a wide range of experiences, particularly meeting people outside the home and playing with other children.

2. Try and ensure that your children are able to make their own decisions over small things – this will help them grow in confidence.

3. Try and ensure that you are not always worried and anxious. Bringing up children can be stressful, but, if your children feel that you are always worried, they are more likely to be anxious themselves.

4. Spend time with the child. Read to the child (this will also tend to help his school work).Eat meals with the child. Go out to the movie with the child. Take trips together. Make frequent contact with extended family, neighbors and friends. Take him to the local library. Provide the child with love and consistency. Children want to feel that they are loved no matter what. If they feel they do not have unconditional love (love them no matter what) they will start to worry. This worry is bad for them and may lead to all kinds of problems.

5. Do not burden the child with adult worries and concerns. Give her a sense of routine. If at seven she is worrying about who will make her dinner, or who will pick her up from school, she may start to feel insecure. This will hamper her ability to feel confident, take chances, learn and have fun. She won’t develop an attitude of "can do" but instead will tend to develop one of "can’t do". Sometimes worried children become precocious, taking on the habits of adults. They become sad and lose heart.

6. Provide consistent rules, regulations, supervision and schedules. Play together. Play is wonderful for having fun, learning and bonding.

7. If the child has gone through some kind of trauma, spend more time with the child than usual. Allow your child to cling to you more often than normal. Being hugged and near to a loving adult is very comforting to children who have been through a very bad time. Also remember to play with the child. Children may be able to share their feelings about what is happening to them through activities such as drawing.

Anxiety disorders at school

Your child’s anxiety disorder may affect success at school. If an anxiety disorder is causing your child to struggle at school academically or socially, the first step is to talk to the teacher, principal, or counselor about your concerns. School personnel will likely recognize some symptoms or manifestations of your child’s anxiety, but they may not realize they are caused by an anxiety disorder, or how they can help. Use your child’s diagnosis to open lines of communication.

Talk to them about any accommodations that may help your child succeed in the classroom. You have the right under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to request appropriate accommodations related to your child’s diagnosis. Also ask them to monitor changes and behavior in the classroom so you can inform your doctor of any progress or problems, or ask them to speak to the doctor or therapist directly.

What Can Parents and Caregivers Do?

By identifying, diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders early, parents and others can help children reach their full potential. Anxiety disorders are treatable. Effective treatment for anxiety disorders may include some form of psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, or medications. Children who exhibit persistent symptoms of an anxiety disorder should be referred to and evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in treating children. The diagnostic evaluation may include psychological testing and consultation with other specialists. A comprehensive treatment plan should be developed with the family, and, whenever possible, the child should be involved in making treatment decisions.

What you can do at home to reduce anxiety in children

The recovery process can be stressful for everyone. It is helpful to build a support network of relatives and friends. And keep these ideas in mind:
  • Listen to your child’s feelings.
  • Stay calm when he becomes anxious about a situation or event.
  • Recognize and praise her small accomplishments.
  • Don’t punish mistakes or lack of progress.
  • Be flexible and try to maintain a normal routine.
  • Modify expectations during stressful periods.
  • Plan for transitions (i.e. allow extra time in the morning if getting to school is difficult).

Tips to Reduce Anxiety and Stress for College Students

When you are anxious about a task or an event, such as a research project or exam, you may try to avoid it. This only raises your stress level! Here are some ways to manage negative thoughts, stress, and anxiety in your academic and campus life.

1. Learn to recognize signs of your anxiety/stress.
    Signs of anxiety or stress may include: nervousness; lack of sleep; irritability; eating much more or less than usual; muscle tension; boredom; headaches; confusion; nausea.
2. Manage your negative thoughts!
  • Yell “Stop!” as soon as you are aware that your mind is racing with worry or fear.
  • Once you get hold of the negative thought(s), take a deep breath and think about calming, pleasant things.
  • Say a positive affirmation, “I will do well on this project.”
  • Visualize being successful at the task at hand. Focus on it.
  • Don’t put yourself down. Think about when you have been successful in the past.
3. Cope with the physical side of your anxiety.
  • Take slow, deep breaths.
  • Try relaxation methods such as soft music or visualization.
  • Alternately tense & relax your muscles from head to toe for 10 minutes, longer if necessary.
  • Do aerobic exercise 4-5 times per week (walk, bike, or run).
  • Do something fun to help you maintain a positive outlook.
  • Take short breaks from the project to refresh yourself.
4. Take your time and pace yourself.
  • Break a large project down into several small tasks.
  • If you have a large amount of material to study, break it into smaller sections.
  • Concentrate on completing one task or section at a time.
5. BE AWARE of yourself.
    Check in with yourself. Are you stressed? What signs do you recognize that tell you this? Take the time to recognize when you are anxious; work with it to work it out of your system.
If you feel like you cannot control your stress or anxiety, please contact the Counseling Center. As a student, you are entitled to 10 FREE sessions. Counseling is totally confidential!

Free Anxiety Tests
How to deal with anxiety