Anxiety in Children – Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention

It is easy to think of a person’s childhood and teenage years as a fun, carefree period with limited responsibilities and obligations. However, not all kids experience their childhood and adolescence in this way.

Anxiety in Children

Anxiety in Children in Brief

Every child feels anxious and afraid from time to time. When this fear becomes permanent or overwhelming, it may be time for professional help.

Some become stressed, while others experience severe anxiety. Every person feels anxious or scared from time to time. It is usual for children to be anxious before a major exam, for example, or when they are getting ready for their first day at a new school. 

Suffering from diagnosable anxiety is different. In children with anxiety, feelings of fear have become permanent and perhaps even overwhelming at times. Rather than feeling anxious occasionally, they rarely have a day without anxiety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one in ten kids between the ages of three and 17 were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in 2019. 

Even before the pandemic, depression, and anxiety in children increased. Since then, the pandemic has caused colossal uncertainty and upheaval for American kids and teenagers. As a result, medical experts believe that anxiety rates have risen further over the past two years. Left untreated, childhood anxiety can develop into a crippling mental health condition that limits a person’s quality of life throughout adulthood and into old age. 

Child Anxiety Signs & Symptoms

Childhood anxiety affects every aspect of a young person’s behavior. They may suffer from recurring negative thoughts and struggle with their academic performance. Like anxiety in adults and seniors, childhood anxiety is characterized by physical and emotional symptoms. 

Physical symptoms of anxiety in kids include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or waking up because of nightmares
  • Changing eating habits
  • Unexplained stomach problems or feeling unwell in general
  • Becoming clingy or fidgety and tense
  • Using the bathroom more often than normal

Emotional and behavioral symptoms include:

  • Changes in behavior like irritability or uncharacteristic outbursts
  • Struggling to control emotions
  • Repetitive negative thoughts or near-constant worrying
  • Difficulty concentrating

Parents may not always notice these signs and symptoms at home. However, they may see that their kids are suddenly struggling at school or avoiding activities they used to enjoy. Kids may also become withdrawn as their anxiety continues to grow. 

Initially, childhood anxiety may look similar to passing fear or worries. When anxiety becomes chronic, physical symptoms tend to appear alongside emotional problems. At this point, parents or other family members should consider looking for professional help. 

Causes of Anxiety in Kids

Causes of childhood anxiety can vary widely. In some cases, the child’s parents may even contribute to the development of the condition. Children living in a household with anxious parents or siblings may copy and learn their behavior. 

Apart from the family environment, other reasons contribute to the development of childhood anxiety. 

  • Genetics: Children with family members suffering from an anxiety disorder are more likely to develop a similar condition. Parents may not always be the source. Anxiety could also trace back to grandparents and other family members. 
  • Life situations: Despite the idea that childhood should be carefree, most kids are exposed to challenging events and circumstances at some point. These events may include their parents’ divorce, a serious illness in the family, or abuse. 
  • Brain chemistry: Whether children develop anxiety also depends on the chemicals in their brains. If certain neurotransmitters are not working well or the body does not produce enough of them, kids may become more prone to serious anxiety. 

Identifying the cause of childhood anxiety makes it easier to treat the condition and resolve these underlying problems. 

Treatment of Anxiety in Children

Most children with diagnosed anxiety respond well to counseling or talk therapy and professional support. Parents can help their children by asking questions about their feelings and taking their concerns seriously. 

Most children benefit from understanding that what they are going through is a mental and behavioral health condition not unlike other illnesses. Knowing how many children and young people are affected by similar conditions can also help them feel better about themselves. 

If children with anxiety receive support from a professional counselor, their treatment generally follows a set of steps:

  • Assessment: Counselors start by learning more about the source and root causes of a child’s anxiety. It allows them to address the factors that caused or triggered the condition rather than addressing symptoms alone. 
  • Based on their assessment, counselors will suggest a treatment plan for each child. There is no single course of treatment to benefit all children with anxiety. Instead, therapists are often more successful when they tailor the treatment to the individual patient.
  • Counseling sessions: most counselors will meet one-on-one with the children and adolescents in their care. During these counseling sessions, they will address the child’s concerns and help them develop coping strategies.
  • Treatment review: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most successful and widely used approaches to treating childhood anxiety. However, not everyone responds in the same way. Therefore, counselors need to review their approach and patients’ progress regularly.

Effects of Anxiety in Children

Suffering from an anxiety disorder can ruin a young person’s childhood and affect them for the rest of their life. 

When anxiety becomes overwhelming, it is impossible to concentrate, for example. That means a child’s academic performance will almost certainly suffer. If grades drop too far, they may limit a child’s choice of college and career. 

More immediately, anxiety affects a kid’s social life. As anxiety, fears, and worries take over, most children with this condition retreat from activities they used to enjoy. Withdrawing from activities often means limiting friendships and social contacts. 

A lack of social contact may contribute to the further development of anxiety as kids feel alone with their fears and worries. 

Without professional treatment, serious anxiety disorders can quickly create life-long limitations. They affect a young person’s development and their potential during their adult life. 

How does Truecare’s Anxiety Counseling Help Children? 

A unique, adaptive approach lies at the heart of TrueCare™’s anxiety counseling for children. Experienced counselors treat each child individually, taking their time to assess the condition and its causes without concluding too early. 

TrueCare™’s counseling offers a high degree of flexibility, making it easy to integrate counseling into a busy family lifestyle. Anxiety Counseling for children is available online and offline. Online counseling is ideal for children who want to avoid traveling far to see a counselor or struggle to fit counseling around other commitments. 

While remote counseling has grown in popularity because of restrictions caused by the pandemic and the convenience of online services, in-person counseling remains a viable option. Some children may find it easier to build a relationship with their counselor if they meet face-to-face. 

In-person counseling is not restricted to a mental health professional’s office. More and more schools are offering on-campus counseling for their students to make behavioral and mental health care more accessible. Other counselors travel to their clients’ locations for in-home counseling sessions. 

Children with anxiety do not always need to choose one approach to their treatment. They can combine online and offline sessions to accommodate busy schedules and avoid excessive travel. 

FAQs on Anxiety in Kids

Do children suffer from anxiety?

Yes. Like adults, children may also become overwhelmed by fear and worry. If that’s the case, it’s not unlikely for them to develop a diagnosable anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

What causes anxiety in kids?

Causes of anxiety vary widely. They can include a genetic predisposition or family and environmental influences, such as bullying. Some kids develop anxiety because of their brain chemistry. Because the condition’s causes vary widely, it is essential to understand those reasons before starting treatment. 

How can parents spot the signs of severe anxiety? 

Every child worries or gets scared from time to time. When those occasional worries become more regular, parents should look for otherwise unexplained physical symptoms of anxiety. Severe anxiety disorders are almost always presented with emotional and biological factors. 

How is childhood anxiety treated?

Counseling and other forms of talk therapy have been proven to be highly effective in addressing childhood anxiety. The individual treatment approach is tailored to the patient’s specific needs. 

What are the possible consequences of untreated childhood anxiety?

Severe anxiety rarely resolves without professional help. As a result, this condition can affect a young person for the rest of their life. Their academic performance may suffer, social contacts become limited, and they may retreat from activities they used to enjoy. At that stage, anxiety becomes truly life-limiting. 

About TrueCare™

TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.

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