Mental health has been a topic of discussion with increasing frequency over the last few years. There are a lot of organizations striving to remove the stigma, increase awareness, and promote seeking help for those who are struggling. Most of these improvements, however, are focused on adults, especially new moms and teenagers.
There hasn’t yet been a huge increase in the conversation surrounding children’s mental health. Children can be anxious too and there are some common signs to look for so you can discuss with your doctor or healthcare provider. Here are 10 signs that your child could have anxiety.
Does your child seem agitated for seemingly no reason on a regular basis? Agitation is a common symptom for kids with anxiety because they don’t know how to process or communicate their anxious feelings so they are just agitated all the time while trying to bottle all of their emotions up inside.
Sitting down with your child and asking them to try to explain their feelings may help you get to the bottom of what’s making them anxious.
9 Poor Focus
Kids with anxiety often have trouble focusing on everyday tasks like homework or even in their sports activities. This is often because their minds are preoccupied with worrying thoughts, so they can’t concentrate on the task at hand.
Sometimes children with anxiety can be misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD because many of the symptoms are similar.
It's common for children to throw tantrums when they get anxious about something, again because they don’t know how to process their feelings.
Adults easily get overwhelmed when the stresses of work, home, school, and relationships seem to be too much, and it’s even easier for a child to feel that way, especially if they are anxious by nature.
7 Physical Symptoms
Physical symptoms of anxiety are often one of the ones parents notice first because they cause the most difficulty in daily routines. Kids with anxiety often complain of stomach aches, headaches, being tired and not feeling well.
While these can be physical symptoms of feeling anxious, they can also be ways the child is trying to get out of doing the thing that makes them anxious, like going to school.
6 Refusal to Eat
If you notice your child has been bringing their lunch bag home barely touched, or they are picking at their food at home, it can be a sign of anxiety.
Struggling with mental health can decrease appetite, and it can also be a source of anxiety for children who have tummy trouble, or nerves about eating with others at school.
5 Trouble Falling Asleep
Insomnia can get the best of anyone, but especially children with anxiety. With their heads swirling with worried thoughts about turning in their homework assignment the next day or that thing they said that kids laughed at today, it can be impossible for them to quiet their minds and fall asleep quickly. They could also be worried about the big game that they have after school tomorrow.
And of course, a lack of sleep can make the following day more difficult, too. All of these signs can be heightened if a child is overtired.
Children with anxiety often tend to be perfectionists. The reality of something not being perfect makes them anxious.
This can be a fear of making minor mistakes on their school work, or their room not being perfectly tidy, or bigger things like lying to you about a mistake because they’re afraid of what your response might be.
3 Avoids Social Situations
If your child avoids social situations, that can be a sign of social anxiety. While it is normal for toddlers and preschoolers to be shy and stay close to their parents in new situations or around a lot of people, typically by the time they are school-aged they start to outgrow that nervousness.
If your child is still quite anxious about things like school, birthday parties, family BBQs, etc. they may be dealing with anxiety.
2 Nervous Questions
“What if there’s a fire?” “Is it going to thunderstorm?” “What time will you pick me up?” When kids ask their parents these types of questions, they might seem like they are perfectly harmless because we all know that children are very curious. But the truth is that these questions can also be a sign that your child is suffering from anxiety.
If your child is constantly asking about the weather, dangerous situations, the schedule and timing of things, or anything else with any amount of frequency, they may be communicating things they are anxious about. You should definitely know that they are asking you these questions as a way of placating their anxious thoughts.
1 Seeking Approval
Anxiety often makes kids seek the approval of their elders, including their parents and teachers. This trait may be benign every once in a while, but if your child is constantly asking for your approval for their school work, their chores, how they look, how they played in the game,and so on, it could be a sign of anxiety. They could worry about their skills and abilities and they're looking for confirmation that they're doing a good job.
Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed about and should be talked about even more than it is today, especially in regards to children. If you think your child may be suffering, your medical provider will be able to help you seek answers and help your child feel more at peace with their thoughts. If someone you know is in a mental health crisis, please call your local emergency line immediately.