Is it Anxiety?

Written by Kristin Tallackson, M.A., LPC (OH), LPC-Intern (TX)

Research shows children can begin experiencing anxiety in early childhood. As adults, we often think of anxiety as evidenced by constant worry and fidgeting. While children may exhibit these symptoms, there are a number of others ways children experience anxiety. Anxiety presents itself in a plethora of ways, such as:

-        The desire to control people and events. Perhaps you notice your child wanting to be told the details of their day. They may want to know what is going to happen and what you will be doing, too.

-        Difficulty getting to sleep.

-        Feeling agitated or angry. When children do not understand what they are feeling, they may display their anxiety as anger.

-        Defiance and other challenging behaviors. This may be displayed as a child acting out when you drop them off at school or refusing to do their homework or participate in activities (for fear of messing up).

-        Having high expectations for self, including school and sports.

-        Avoiding activities or events (like school).

-        Pain like stomachaches or headaches. When children do not deal with their anxiety, it can present itself somatically.

-        Intolerance of uncertainty. For example, you may notice your child “acts out” during transitions.

-        Crying and difficulty managing emotions. You may notice your child is not able to self-regulate their emotions.

-        Over- planning for situations and events. Your child may want to be aware of all the small details of the day’s events or they may express worry over traveling.

-        Feeling worried and asking “What if?” questions. Children experiencing anxiety may often ask questions beginning with “what if”.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 31.4 % of adolescents experienced an anxiety disorder last year. Anxiety is common and understanding how anxiety presents itself will help you know when to seek help for your child or adolescent.