Kids who have been exposed to challenges, loss or trauma can experience anxiety. It’s normal for kids of all ages to feel fear and worry about new situations or unfamiliar people, but when those feelings become unmanageable and interfere with a child’s daily life it may be time to seek professional help.
Fortunately, there are effective treatments for children and teens with anxiety disorders, and parents can play an important role in helping their child find relief. Here are some early physical, behavioral and emotional signs that a child might be experiencing unmanageable levels of anxiety.
It’s not uncommon for kids to complain of stomachaches or other physical symptoms in response to stress or anxiety. They may also begin to avoid certain situations, activities or people in order to prevent or escape their anxieties.
However, it’s important to note that these types of behaviors and complaints may also be a sign of other problems like depression or other mental health conditions that should be treated.
Anxiety is a normal part of the body’s “fight or flight” response to danger, and it helps keep us safe by producing chemicals that affect heart rate, breathing, muscles and digestion. But, for kids with anxiety disorders, these responses can take place even when there’s no real danger present.
As a result, their body is on high alert all the time and they become anxious or afraid about everyday things like school, friends, food or even getting hurt. They don’t always have a clear reason why they are worried, and it can be hard for others to understand their irrational fears.
A variety of factors can lead to the development of an anxiety disorder, including genetics and environment. Trauma, bullying or witnessing abuse are also known to contribute to the onset of anxiety disorders in kids. The anxiety that accompanies puberty is another common cause, as kids can be self-conscious and afraid of embarrassing themselves in front of their peers.
It’s also possible for children to develop anxiety disorders due to their family history of the condition. If a child’s anxiety becomes unmanageable and interfering with their daily life, parents should contact a mental health specialist who can diagnose the problem. Treatment for an anxiety disorder may include a combination of psychological therapies, medication and lifestyle changes. Ideally, a child should be evaluated by a mental health expert before starting any medication. This is especially true for children who are undergoing puberty or have other issues like depression or bipolar disorder that must be treated as well. A family doctor is often the first step and can provide a referral to a local child and adolescent mental health service. This could involve a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor who can help your child get the right care for their particular anxiety symptoms.