When your child is stressed about something, they may feel certain emotions or show specific behaviors. For instance, they may be worried because they are late for school or nervous about an upcoming test. They may feel scared about new experiences, like being away from their parents for the first time. These reactions to stress are common, part of everyday life, and an important part of growing up.
If there is no stressor or trigger to upset or worry a child out, this is different from stress. When the body reacts to stress without a stressor, it may be anxiety.
There are many kinds of anxiety children can experience. The way each child expresses their anxiety will vary from child to child. Some common types of anxiety and associated behaviors include:
- Constant worry about everyday things like family, school, and friends
- Unable to control feelings of nervousness or fear, including fear of embarrassment or making a mistake
- Difficulty concentrating
- Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
- Feeling on edge
- Repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or actions (compulsions)
- Low self-esteem or lack of confidence
- Intense fear about the safety of their family
- Afraid to go to school or sleep away from home
- Stomachaches, headaches, or physical complaints during separation
- Clingy behavior
- Crying or panic during separation
- Nightmares and difficulty sleeping
- Afraid to meet new people
- Avoiding social situations or talking to others
- Difficulty making friends
- Extreme fear about a specific thing or situation (ex. dogs, spiders, or needles)
- The fear causes distress and impacts everyday activities
If your child experiences anxiety that doesn’t seem to go away or it begins to impact their daily life, it can negatively affect their long-term health. Untreated anxiety can cause physical issues, like digestive or cardiovascular problems, or they may be at a higher risk for developing anxiety disorders or depression.
Fortunately, many health professionals can treat children with severe anxiety and get them the support they need. They may suggest treating anxiety with therapy, medication, or both. Each treatment plan will depend on your child’s needs.
If you think your child has anxiety, talk with their doctor. You can start by discussing your child’s behavior and sharing information about their health history, so your doctor can make sure that an unrelated physical problem is not causing their symptoms. If Hazel is available in your school, you can schedule a visit with one of our doctors as well.