It's normal for people to feel anxious at one time or another. You might feel nervous about starting a new job, giving a work presentation, or even flying on an airplane. The nervousness might be full blown panic or just an uneasy feeling, and it's not limited to adults. Kids can also feel normal nervousness about a wide range of things. Usually the nerves are just that — nerves. But if the anxiety is consistent and interfering with daily activities, you might want to look our for subtle signs that your kid is struggling with anxiety.
"We started to see behavioral changes around age two. But she had a new baby brother, I weaned her, there was a lot going on," Joni Edelman, a mother of five, living in California says in an interview. She continues, "We chalked it up to toddler behavior, shyness." Edelman had no reason to believe otherwise. Think about how toddlers act. One minute they're happy, the next they're thrashing mad. Many young kids get nervous in new environments and act shy.
Edelman says her daughter Ella starting to withdraw in social settings. Still thinking it was just shyness, she'd nudge Ella to socialize. Ella pushed back harder.
"I certainly wondered if she was on the Autism spectrum," Edelman continues, "I admit though, I ultimately just thought she was 'hard' and that she'd grow out of it."
Kids struggling with anxiety can be very difficult to diagnose, at least initially. Consider how many kids cling to their parents at preschool drop off and how many kids get the jitters before the first day of school or complain of random tummy aches and headaches. This is all run of the mill kid stuff.
But Edelman wasn't sure. As Edelman tried different exposure techniques she started to notice that her daughter was getting worse in certain situations. For example, she wouldn't speak at all and started using hand gestures instead of speech. Observations like that eventually led Edelman to seek a more specific diagnosis. Ella has been recently diagnosed with a type of anxiety called selective mutism. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) cited that children with selective mutism refuse to talk in environments they're not comfortable in.
Edelman wrote about her experience with selective mutism as editor-in-chief of the publication Ravishly. In the article entitled, "Would Homeschooling Be Better For My Special Needs Child," Edelman said her daughter, "literally cannot engage, even if she wants to. Her voice is lost in the panic."
As Edleman's situation points out some signs of anxiety-based behaviors will be fairly obvious, but others won't be. Here are eight subtle signs your child is struggling with anxiety.