Just like adults, every child can have occasional case of the jitters. Whether there's a big test coming up in school, they're about to perform on stage, or they just don't like change, being nervous is perfectly natural. But when is it something more than just acting a little cautious? If you have a child that tends to feel fretful, you may wonder what are some of the signs your kid has anxiety. As a parent, you always have your child's well-being on your mind, so it's important to know the difference between a random case of nerves and the real deal.
Though it can be difficult to discern when certain behaviors are just a passing phase and when you should seek out support for the situation, there do seem to be some universal indicators that your child's fearfulness is actually anxiety. Personally, I know that I can't but wonder if my son is just shy around new people or if there's a deeper issue of social anxiety.
So whether you legitimately think your child is more than just a little distressed or you're proactively curious, check out some of these signs your child has anxiety and isn't just worried.
1They Always Seem Down
Contrary to what you might think, anxiety in children doesn't just present as cartoonish, frazzled behavior. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), "it's not uncommon for children to be diagnosed with both depression and an anxiety disorder." So be aware if your child seems more than just a little down in the dumps.
People often use the word "clingy" to describe a child who shows an urgent need to stay with their parent or a trusted individual. Dr. Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist and director at Westchester Medical Center, told the Child Mind Institute (CMI), "in younger kids with anxiety you might see freezing and clinging kind of behavior." Furthermore, you can really identify it as anxiety if your child has, "tantrums and complete meltdowns," when they're kept from clinging, Dr. Busman added.
3Their Anxiety Has Physical Effects
You might think your child is just trying to skip school, but if they are consistently complaining of certain maladies, anxiety could be to blame. According Nemours' Kids Health informational website, children with anxiety, "may have physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or tiredness." When in doubt, consult a physician about these symptoms.
4They're Focused On Doom
Does your child seem fixated on when the next natural disaster will occur? Are they constantly concerned about their health? According to Anxiety BC, a Canadian mental health resource site, children with anxiety, "worry excessively and uncontrollably about daily life events and are often nicknamed 'worry warts.'" When the fear of impending doom is disproportional to reality, anxiety could be the driving force.
5They Can't Stand Critique
If your kid dreads school, performances, or simply going out in public, it could be more than typical apprehension. According to Parents, "when a child is excessively worried about being embarrassed or judged negatively, they may have social anxiety disorder." It's always a good idea to have open communication with your child so you can try to figure out the root of their fears.
6They Struggle In School
Every kid gets sent to the principal's office at least once in their life, but if calls from the school are a frequent occurrence, it could be a sign of something deeper. Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a mental health care professor at Harvard Medical School, told CMI, "children with serious anxiety can be disruptive at school." What tends to trigger this behavior? Rappaport explained, "the demands and expectations put pressure on them that they can’t handle." So if school seems to be too much, anxiety could be the underlying cause.
7They Need Confirmation
Though it's completely normal for a kid want validation from their parents, if it becomes a perpetual need, it may be something else. According to the ADAA, "children with Generalized Anxiety Disorder tend to seek constant approval or reassurance from others." Keep in mind that most of these behaviors are only troublesome if they seem excessive or that they are negatively affecting your child's life.
8They Can't Sleep
Plenty of children struggle with sleep, yet an unhealthy bedtime situation can be a red flag. According to Worry-Wise Kids, "sleep difficulties, irritability, and fatigue," are signs of anxiety in a child. When their mind is overloaded with fear, they can have trouble falling and staying asleep.
9They Feel Out Of Touch
Daydreaming and creativity are hallmarks of childhood whimsy. Yet feeling overcome by a world of fantasy is actually indicative of anxiety. According to the Child Anxiety Network, in children with severe anxiety, "symptoms include feeling as if one is in a dream and events seem unreal." As always, if you're concerned that your child might have anxiety, talk to a medical professional for guidance and support.