6 Symptoms of General Anxiety in Children

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Watching your child wrestle with tough emotions and struggle through anxiety is so difficult. As parents, we just want to take away their pain. 

We want to help.

The best way we can do that is to be informed. Recognize the signs of anxiety and make sure you follow up with their primary care provider if you ever suspect more than a standalone stress episode.

Anxiety disorders in children are very common, yet they can present in a myriad of different ways. 

Today we’ll cover some of the most common symptoms of general anxiety disorder, as well as a brief overview of other types of anxiety disorders children may experience.

Here are 6 symptoms a child might exhibit when they are struggling with a generalized anxiety disorder.

1. Irritability 

When a child is feeling anxious, it’s common to fluster easily and be irritable with those around them. 

If you notice your child becoming easily agitated,  this is a sign they are experiencing stress in some capacity.

2. Lack of focus

When a child’s mind is consumed with all the “what ifs”, it can be difficult to shift the focus off of the fear and onto the task at hand.

This can be particularly challenging when it comes to getting schoolwork done and keeping grades up. If a child is distracted, it’s going to be hard to maintain the focus needed to participate in class.

3. Trouble sleeping

Sleep doesn’t always come easy when a child’s mind is racing at night. Along with difficulty falling asleep, frequent night wakings can disrupt the sleep cycle as well. 

This can prevent a child from getting a good night’s rest, also contributing to irritability and lack of focus.

4. Loss of appetite

Stress can wreak havoc on the body and oftentimes parents will see a change in the child’s eating patterns when an anxiety disorder is present.

More often than not, a child’s appetite will decrease during prolonged periods of stress. A child might exhibit signs of “picky eating”, or just lose interest in meals altogether. 

This is definitely a symptom you want to watch closely and follow up on in order to ensure your child is receiving adequate nutrition.

5. Meltdowns

When dealing with anxiety, children often have frequent meltdowns. These can look different depending on the child’s age and stage. 

In some, it can look like a typical temper tantrums – a “textbook” meltdown. Other children may cry at the drop of a hat, have angry outbursts, or even isolate themselves from friends and family. 

It’s important to recognize when a meltdown is happening and show your child empathy and understanding while giving them the tools they need to work through the feelings they are experiencing.

6. Physical symptoms

When a child’s body is under a large amount of stress for a prolonged period of time, it’s only natural that physical symptoms would present as well. 

Muscle tension, stomachaches, and headaches are all common with a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis.

Other common anxiety disorders:

Other types of anxiety disorders a child might experience are:

  • social anxiety
  • OCD
  • specific phobias
  • separation anxiety
  • PTSD

Children with these anxiety disorders will often exhibit many of the common symptoms listed, as well as signs specific to each diagnosis. It’s important to educate yourself on what those symptoms look like, as well as talk to your child’s doctor about any questions or concerns you may have.

A key thing to remember is that everyone experiences stress once in a while. Stress is normal and a healthy response in certain situations

It’s when these symptoms are prolonged over a period of time and impacting your child’s life in a negative way that it’s time to step in and intervene.

Symptoms of anxiety in children often overlap with other potential diagnoses: – ADHD and SPD in particular. 

If you suspect your child is struggling with anxiety, it’s really important to speak with their primary care provider so that they can be properly assessed. Once you have the correct diagnosis, it can open up so many doors you didn’t have access to before. 

It’s scary to “label” a child, but getting them the RIGHT diagnosis means that you can begin to learn how to best help them. In the end, that’s all that really matters.

We want to help as many parents and educators as we can! Please share this article on social media in order to help us reach that goal!

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