Anxiety disorders are prevalent among both children and adults.
Feelings of overwhelming fear, dread, or panic characterize them. Children may experience these feelings in public and private but often hide their symptoms at home.
While some anxiety in children is normal, various signs and symptoms indicate a child may have a larger problem. Left untreated, they can lead to school avoidance or acting out at home.
Learn more about the hidden signs of anxiety in children and what to watch for as we walk you through this guide.
Physical manifestations of anxiety in children can include:
- stomach aches/digestive problems
- chest pain
- racing heart
- increased agitation
Physical symptoms can worsen as soon as the child’s anxiety increases. Highly anxious children may be more sensitive to physical pain, experience significant changes in their appetite, or have difficulty concentrating. It is important to be mindful of changes in your child’s behavior and monitor any physical changes over time.
Common sleep disturbances include:
- difficulty falling asleep
- difficulty staying asleep
Studies show that children experience more frequent and intense sleep disturbances as anxiety levels increase. These can lead to disruptive behavior and mood difficulties, especially if unresolved.
In severe cases, the inability to get adequate rest can impair a child’s social, emotional, and academic development. Parents should identify these sleep disturbances early. Take proactive and consistent steps to address them.
It may include therapy, relaxation techniques, improved bedtime routines, and sleep hygiene. It is also vital to help children recognize and learn to cope with the stressors causing anxiety and sleep issues.
One sign that often goes unnoticed is difficulty concentrating. It can manifest in several ways; a child may start paying attention during class and drift off mentally while the teacher speaks.
Or they have difficulty following directions, staying on task, or appear to not be “at the moment” when carrying out activities or interacting with others. Difficulty concentrating can be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder, especially if a pattern of behavior emerges and persists for more than a few weeks.
Restlessness is another sign of anxiety. A child can show restlessness in many forms, from physical activity such as pacing, rocking back and forth, or fidgeting to verbal outbursts such as talking too much or squirming.
It can also manifest in a child’s inability to sit still or concentrate. Other physical symptoms of a restless child include sweating, increased heart rate, and increased breathing. It can also signify a child’s fear of social situations or speaking in front of a group.
Parents should pay attention to their children’s hidden anxiety symptoms. So they can help provide the necessary coping mechanisms and treatments for managing anxiety.
It is important to partner with a licensed physician to diagnose and address any underlying anxiety symptoms in children properly. They will also provide a reliable anxiety disorder treatment to help regain control of their lives.
Decrease School Performance
Anxiety in children can present itself without any clear physical signs. One symptom that can show underlying anxiety is decreased school performance.
It can impair concentration, making it difficult for children to focus and retain the information they’re being taught. Anxious children are likelier to miss more classes than those without, have lower grades, and take longer to complete their work or tasks.
Change in Appetite
Change in appetite is one of the key signs and symptoms of anxiety. A child who either undereats or overeats can indicate an anxious child. Eating habits that were once normal for a child can spontaneously change, which can cause anxiety.
A child typically stops eating when feeling overwhelmed, making them inactive, weak, and tired. In contrast, some children may turn to food and overeat, leading to feeling uncomfortable or even nauseous. Changes in appetite can show that a child needs additional support to deal with the anxiety.
It can be achieved by introducing coping mechanisms such as talking to the child, counseling sessions, or other methods to help them control their emotions. Identifying the root cause of the anxiety and acting swiftly can help minimize its effects on the child’s life and well-being.
It can present in many ways that are not easily observed. One hidden sign of anxiety may be present is memory impairment. Children experiencing excessive anxiety may become easily distracted. They can forget events or tasks.
They may also struggle to remember previously learned things in school and other environments, such as at home or after-school activities. It is important to be aware of such changes in memory, which can be signs that the child may struggle with anxiety.
Children often display concerning emotions when experiencing anxiety. These emotions can manifest differently in each child. But they typically include anger, fear, sadness, and even pleasure outbursts.
An emotional outburst can be a major sign of anxiety in children. It should be taken seriously.
It may also show that the child feels overwhelmed by their situation or the pressure they may face. They must learn to recognize when their child is showing patterns of anxiety so that they can take steps to address the child’s mental health.
Becoming Withdrawn or Isolated
Becoming withdrawn or isolated is a common symptom and difficult to identify. Withdrawal signs can range from disinterest in previously enjoyed activities to hesitant responses to invitations to see friends or family. Behavior can also be present in how children behave around their peers.
A child may seem disinterested in socializing or become quiet and aloof during outings with friends. Though sometimes easy to overlook, too much isolation can cause concern.
Talking to them about their feelings and understanding the underlying issues can be helpful. Consulting a mental health professional for further guidance and support may be beneficial.
Be Aware of the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Children
Awareness of the sometimes hidden signs and symptoms of anxiety in children is essential. If observed, ensure your child gets the help to address and deal with their stress. Consult a physician immediately if the anxiety becomes unmanageable.
Take action now to provide your child with the right support for a healthy future!
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