Identifying Childhood Anxiety Symptoms

Identifying Childhood Anxiety Symptoms

It is unfortunate, but children can suffer from anxiety as well as adults. For many parents, the symptoms of anxiety in their child may be frightening and even confusing. The symptoms that present in children are often much different than those found in adults.

A term that most parents will need to become familiar with is GAD, also known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Children who suffer from this disorder will often feel anxious or worried over various issues. These issues may include performance at school, relationships that they have with other children as well as other family members, athletic performance, and many others.

While it is true that most children will worry about these same issues, the child with GAD will worry excessively over them. Their feelings may become so overwhelming that they shy away from interacting with other people or avoid situations where they may feel pressured. Their reaction to these situations can have very negative effects on their lives.

Generally, children who suffer from GAD will become increasingly self-critical. They often need reassurance from others, and if that reassurance does not come, they can fall deeper into their symptoms. In some children, being anything less than perfect is not acceptable.

Many of these same children will find it hard to participate in group activities such as sports or other organized events. They often appear shy, which can also add to their issues, especially at school.

Some of the signs and symptoms that parents want to look for include:

Anxiety and worrying over a large variety of issues in which the child feels a sense of inadequacy. He or she may exhibit harsh, self-criticism or harsh self-evaluation on a variety of tasks including school work, sports, or relationships. The child may need constant reassurance of his or her actions.

In addition to emotional dilemmas, the child may also experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, nausea, muscle tension and frequent upset stomach.

Many children may also feel a sense of irritability or restlessness. They may have trouble sleeping and often wake up repeatedly during the night.

As these children age, they may turn to drugs and alcohol for relief of their symptoms. This path, of course, only adds to their turmoil and can result in severe depression or thoughts of suicide.

It is important to remember that these children may have difficulty in expressing how they feel. If you notice any signs of childhood anxiety, it is best to seek professional help.

Parents must understand that children with GAD need to be reassured. It is often a mistake to simply tell the child that they have nothing to worry about and leave it at that. Instead, urge the child to express his or her feelings.

If one or both of the parents are also suffering from anxiety issues, the child may pick up on this. Parents who often show their anxiety to their children become role models for the child in that the child mimics these same actions and expressions.

Again, seek help from your family pediatrician. A professional diagnosis is often needed in order for the child to get the proper treatment he or she needs. The good news is there are many treatment options now available and most children will benefit from these once treatment begins.