As child anxiety sufferers ourselves, we can honestly say it’s one of the worst times to experience anxiety. Add in a parent who has difficulty understanding or who overlooks the severity of anxiety in children, and it could be this fork in the road that highly dictates their future. Fortunately, you’re a step ahead of the game because you’re here, searching for the answer to, “How to tell if my child has anxiety”. Good for you.
Helping a child with anxiety is truly difficult. As if parenting wasn’t hard enough as it is, you now have an anxious child who’s experiencing all these feelings he or she is unable to explain or reason with. Being mom or dad in this situation can be equally frustrating, heartbreaking and stressful.
The first step to helping your child is to learn the common signs of anxiety in children. Then, you can take the proper action needed to help them learn how to overcome their anxious feelings and/or panic attacks.
11 Signs of Anxiety in Children
Before we get into the various signs of anxiety in children, it’s important that we mention that these are just common symptoms. If your child has one symptom of anxiety and none of the rest, or even if they have all of these signs of anxiety, it doesn’t mean that they have anxiety. We recommend seeing a doctor for proper diagnosis.
1. Your Child Feels Sick Every Time ‘Something’ Happens
We wanted to mention this sign of anxiety in children first because it’s something we can relate to. Not only were we always sick with a stomach ache anytime something came up, we’ve also seen this in little ones in our lives.
For example, the creator of Anxiety Gone was always “sick” when it was time to go to a restaurant or somewhere that made her feel uncomfortable. Another child we know always has a stomach ache or headache anytime an uneasy situation or conversation arrives.
Take notes of when your child seems to feel sick, whether it’s nausea, a headache, dizziness, etc. Over time, you’ll be able to see if there’s a pattern that links their feelings of sickness to specific triggers.
2. Your Child Tells You They Feel Funny
The best way to see if your child has anxiety is to ask them how they are feeling. Some children with anxiety will explain that their head feels funny, or that their heart is beating fast, or that they can’t catch their breath. Pay attention to what they’re feeling and when, and see if there is a pattern.
3. Your Child Has Difficulty Eating When Not at Home
One sign of anxiety in children that the creator even deals with to this day is difficulty eating in public. So, watch your child’s eating patterns and see if they come home from school or daycare with a fairly full lunch pail. If your child is refusing to eat when out in public or when simply not in the comfort of their own home, this could be a sign of anxiety.
4. Your Child Becomes Restless, Hyperactive and/or Fidgety
This sign of child anxiety is really difficult because there are various reasons why they may become restless, hyperactive and/or fidgety. That’s also not to mention that children are typically hyper. However, there’s a fairly distinct line between a hyper child and a child showing signs of anxiety. So, take notes and see if there is a pattern that links their restlessness to specific triggers.
Now, these types of behaviours can also be signs of anxiety, ADHD or other behavioural concerns. So, it’s worth speaking with your doctor, especially if the restlessness, hyperactivity or fidgety behaviours interrupt their quality of life.
5. Your Child is Unable to Sleep
A child that doesn’t sleep isn’t all that rare. Just speak to any of the moms of the world. However, most kids will zonk out once they actually allow themselves to fall asleep.
A child with anxiety may have trouble falling and/or staying asleep. Instead of typical child bedtime behaviour – jumping up and down in bed desperate to stay away, a child with anxiety may stay wide awake despite laying there quietly, simply because their worried thoughts are keeping them up at night.
6. Your Child Shakes or Sweats in Uncomfortable Situations
It isn’t uncommon for anyone – children or adults – to sweat or shake when in uncomfortable and/or intimidating situations. However, being intimidated to the point of shaking or sweating isn’t all that common. Just think about the last time you were so scared that you began sweating or shaking. You probably can’t remember. So, if this seems to be a regular thing for your child, it could be a sign of anxiety.
7. Your Child Has Irrational Fears Beyond What’s Typical
Kids have irrational fears. It’s part of being a kid. However, a child with anxiety will have irrational fears that go beyond what’s typical. Sure, they might be scared of monsters in the closet but if they’re scared to go play with friends because they’re convinced (key word here!) that something extremely bad will happen or if they’re scared of doing things most kids enjoy doing, it might be anxiety.
8. Your Child Shows OCD-Type Behaviours
Obsession Compulsive Disorder is an entirely different mental illness in itself. However, children with anxiety (and even adults) tend to form OCD-type of behaviours. These are things they just have to do and that they literally can’t continue until they do it.
For some child with anxiety, it’s having a water bottle – they can’t and won’t leave the house without a water bottle.
9. Your Child Asks “What If” Constantly
The ‘what ifs’ are a pretty good sign that your child is experiencing anxious feelings or suffering from anxiety. Anxiety is all about the what ifs – what if this happens, what if this doesn’t happen, what if I don’t do this, what if I do this – and the list goes on. What ifs can be both rational and irrational – what if I fail my test or what if an earthquake happens. However, when the what ifs are constant, it’s an indicator of child anxiety.
10. Your Child Becomes Overly Emotional When Leaving You
A child with anxiety will likely show signs of extreme discomfort when leaving you and/or their comfort zone. Most kids have difficulty leaving their parents on the first day of school. This is typical. However, a child with anxiety is likely to become so distraught over being separated from their parents that they’re are often inconsolable – and on the regular. These types of kids with anxiety aren’t just emotional about leaving their parents; they act and feel completely traumatized.
11. Your Child Refuses to Do Things Most Kids Enjoy
No two kids are the same but all kids enjoy the same type of activities. Most kids enjoy going to school, playing with their friends, going to the park, eating at their favourite fast food restaurant, seeing the latest Disney movie in theatres, etc. So, if your child does everything in their power to avoid doing these types of activities, it could be a sign of anxiety.
Without the knowledge of anxiety in children, these symptoms are easy to overlook as nothing more than typical child behaviour. And they could be just that.
However, signs of anxiety in children often occur frequently, are intense and also interrupt their quality of life. If this sounds like your child, we highly recommend seeing your doctor for proper medical advice.
More importantly, if your child is diagnosed with anxiety, it’s not the end. They can live a great life and fulfill all of their dreams with the right tips, tools, support and therapy.
We’ll be launching a new kid’s Anxiety Gone subscription box in January 2018, where we’ll be sending packages of anxiety workbooks, journals, coping toys and tools right to your door.