Defence Kids
5 Signs your child may have an anxiety disorder

5 Signs your child may have an anxiety disorder

Watching a child have anxiety is such a heartbreaking experience as a parent. Your child feels that he cannot meet the demands of life because its either too difficult or too frightening. Luckily there are some tell tale signs of what’s going on inside your child’s body. Below is 5 signs of a childhood anxiety disorder.

Before jumping into the signs, take note of the frequency, intensity and duration of the behaviours you believe are linked to anxiety. These 3 things will indicate a short term worry versus a longer term anxiety disorder.

Remember the way a child develops is through acting out their feelings, and its normal. frustrating, but normal.

The older they get, the more likely you can talk out the feelings they have in certain situations.

Is their behaviour changing?

An emotional breakdown can be experienced in many ways – sobbing, wailing, refusing to move or respond and talking non stop about an upsetting event.

Tears are also a way the body releases stress hormones. It is the reason you feel so much better after a good cry. Crying is good. Crying for no apparent reason is not good, and can be a sign of underlying anxiety.

Many children can also feel anxious when switching between activities. Playtime to dinner time, or between school subjects.

And finally, many children who are afraid of not doing something well, may avoid requests, obligations or deadlines.

Do they avoid certain situations?

Avoidance is a key indicator of anxiety in both adults and children. Because of the uncomfortable feelings that some tasks will bring, avoiding the situations or shying away from them is the easiest way to maintain their comfort.

Some of the common situations that can cause this type of reaction are; social situations, occasions where they need to use skills they believe they do not possess. To avoid the yucky feeling your child may procrastinate or even shut down entirely.

mother holding a worried child

Is your child feeling isolated?

Anxiety has a crazy power to make children feel different, isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. Children who are anxious may shy away from contact with family more often than not, they may try to opt out of family outings especially when family members that are not often seen are involved.

The isolation can also be seen during school time, often its seen as just overly sensitive. However many children feeling anxious may have a hard time making and keeping friends. The comments made may be along the lines of, “everybodys mean to me” or “no one likes me”

Have you noticed any tummy troubles?

The brain can upset the gut and visa versa. The symptoms that can be present in a food allergy can also be due to anxiety. Some of these are; nausea, stomachaches, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation.

The reason behind this is associated with the stress response. The digestive system is seen as a not needed when the body feels anxious, so its impeded or slowed down in addition to hormonal changes.

Do they have any nervous habits?

Have you ever seen your child chew their finger nails, bounce their leg or fiddle? These are all examples of nervous habits. Other less obvious ones include knuckle cracking, tapping fingers or objects, biting lips/clothing/skin or straightening objects.

Interesting fact, nervous habits develop unconsciously as a way to tame tension. So some variations of fidgeting is normal. If your child is old enough, this is a good time to ask how they are feeling.

Working out whether the fidgeting is a sign for a change in activity (getting outside) or having a break from what is going on.

As mentioned earlier, remember to take note of the frequency, duration and surroundings when your child shows signs of anxiety . Some children are very good at masking their worries and can do very well in situations such as the above.

If you are still concerned that your child may have the signs of an anxiety disorder, seek the help of a medical professional such as your local GP or psychologist to determine your pathway forward. Some helpful websites to look at are:

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