Anxiety in Children: When Should I Be Concerned?

10 March, 2021
The symptoms of anxiety in children can be diverse and may include physical discomfort, problems falling asleep, and more. Learn more about childhood anxiety in this article.

Before answering whether or not anxiety in children is a cause for concern, it may be good to first define what we commonly call “anxiety.” Also, it’s important to clarify whether there are differences between anxiety in children and anxiety in adults.

Overall, anxiety in children depends on numerous variables. Therefore, age, emotional manifestations, or a limitation in daily activities are elements that we must take into account.

What is anxiety?

According to information from the Spanish Society of Outpatient and Primary Care Pediatrics, anxiety is part of numerous clinical pictures in childhood and adolescence. According to the same source:

Pathological anxiety is the reaction to a stimulus perceived as threatening, with a feeling of intense discomfort and neurovegetative, cognitive, and somatic symptoms.

Based on the above, anxiety in children – although never desirable – acquires different characteristics and levels of severity. So, when its manifestations correspond to those of pathological anxiety, we may need to be concerned about anxiety in children.

A small child clinging to her parent's leg.
One of the most frequent reasons for anxiety in infants is separation anxiety disorder.

Read also: Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children

Causes of anxiety in children

Children can suffer from anxiety for very diverse causes. Some of them could be:

  • Their parents’ divorce or a similar loss in their life
  • Major changes in their daily life, such as moving to another city
  • Problems at school or bullying
  • A history of abuse
  • Experiencing violence or emotional violence at home

Additional Facts

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, states that “When a child does not outgrow the fears and worries that are typical in young children, or when there are so many fears and worries that they interfere with school, home, or play activities, the child may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.”

Examples of different types of anxiety disorders include the following:

  • Experiencing fear regarding separation from parents (separation anxiety), a specific situation, or something. For example, dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)
  • Fear of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)
  • Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)
  • Having repeated episodes of intense, sudden, unexpected fear, along with body manifestations (panic disorder)

These data on their own may not imply that you’re looking at an anxiety disorder in children. So, it’s just as harmful to overdiagnose this issue as it is to underestimate it.

How to deal with anxiety in children

A mother talking to her son about anxiety.

When we detect symptoms of anxiety in children, it’s important to consult a professional to obtain a diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment.

  • Symptoms of childhood anxiety can also include problems falling asleep, as well as physical discomfort. This may include difficulty breathing, stomach discomfort, sweating, headaches, etc.
  • At the same time, some anxious children don’t communicate their worries and, therefore, the symptoms may go unnoticed.
  • It’s essential to go for a consultation so that a professional can evaluate the child and give their opinion.

You may be interested: Mental Illness in Children and Its Symptoms

To alleviate anxiety in children: A psychologist or psychiatrist

Although we shouldn’t always worry about anxiety in children, it’s essential to pay attention to it.

If necessary, in addition to consulting a pediatrician, it may be important to seek care from a professional specialized in emotional and mental health disorders.

Finally, it’s essential to encourage parents to create a calm, worry-free environment for their children. A word said at the right time, a gesture, or a hug all represent healthy ways to help prevent anxiety – or, if it already exists, to reduce it.

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