What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders in Children?
During childhood, many children and teens experience some form of anxiety. It is usually a temporary and harmless phase. But for children and teens who suffer from an anxiety disorder their emotions are not a phase.
Over the course of time they may begin to exhibit symptoms of nervousness, fear, shyness, and seek ways to consciously avoid situations that they associate with these feelings.
Common Types of Anxiety in Kids Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents can come in many forms and be expressed in a variety of settings, situations and intensity. Some children experience excessive worry that can interfere with daily activities as well as changes in their overall mood and relationships. In children and adolescents, the feelings of anxiety may manifest physically in the form of headaches or stomach aches. In some cases a child may even become physically ill to avoid participation in the anxiety inducing activities, which in turn reinforces the anxiety and creates a vicious cycle of anxiety, illness, and avoidance.
Some children have a fear or discomfort to social situations that can be associated with a preoccupation with other’s judgment or opinions as well as a fear of rejection by peers.
Children may experience a refusal to go to school or stay in school for the entire day. There can be a great deal of anxiety or stress related to the school work and expectations from teachers and peers. Separating from parents can contribute to school refusal as well.
Children can experience difficulty or excessive anxiety separating from the parent or caregiver.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
This can be characterized by excessive thoughts that can elicit fear or worry and can be relieved with repetitive behaviors. Symptoms can include excessive washing, preoccupation with thoughts or ritualistic behaviors.
Some children experience anxiety over their own health as well as the health of loved ones. Children can also focus on specific body image and perceived flaws.
Children with test anxiety experience excessive worry surrounding taking tests even when preparing for an exam.
Children experience anxiety when relationships with peers are strained. Children who are the target of aggressive behaviors from peers can also develop anxiety.
Anxiety Stemming From Changes in Family Dynamics & Divorce
Anxiety as well as fear and confusion can be associated with divorce. Families undergoing any life changing events such as separation, death, move or loss of job can result in some anxiety for family members.
Children with panic attacks experience intense fear and anxiety that can appear suddenly having been triggered by a situation or other source and is associated with intense physical symptoms.
Treating Children With Anxiety Disorders
At Gwynedd Psychological Services, we have highly trained expertise in helping children and their parents identify and resolve the underlying stressors associated with the anxious feelings. This may also include determining if there are any other underlying internal causes of stress. In many cases, anxiety disorders also co-occur with other disorders including ADHD and ADD, depression, and eating disorders. Therapy is specifically tailored to the needs of your child. He/she will learn coping strategies and relaxation techniques to help alleviate the anxiety.
Our child psychologists utilize cognitive behavioral therapy, play therapy, and a very important approach- the positive influence of the parents! We are unique in our treatment of your child’s anxious feelings. We involve the mother and father in many aspects of the counseling. As symptoms resolve, the underlying issues can be understood and addressed by the parents. Our collaboration with parents is paramount to the successful resolution of the anxiety and to your child’s happiness.