How to recognize anxiety in children?

When one thinks of anxiety, the image of an adult worrying excessively about work, family or partner issues usually comes to mind. It is very common that we do not believe that children can also suffer from this disorder. It is important to know that, in fact, many adults since childhood have suffered from anxiety. So, as in adult life, anxiety can and should be treated in childhood with the help of a specialist.


What is anxiety?

Anxiety is when a person feels worried or has intense, excessive and continuous fears in everyday situations. The key word is excessive because while we can all feel some degree of tension in different situations, there are people who take them as challenges while others can be paralyzed. This causes their performance and sense of well-being to be significantly affected.

Now, in children anxiety can manifest itself in many ways, although usually there are exaggerated worries and fears, changes in behavior, as well as in their sleep patterns, eating and/or mood, but it can also make children irritable and angry.


How can I recognize anxiety in my child?

There are different ways in which anxiety manifests itself, however, it is important to be aware of the following behaviors:

  • When children are very afraid of what others might think or say. They are always afraid they might do or say something that will embarrass them. They worry that they might look weird or say inappropriate things. They don’t like being the center of attention.
  • They worry about things that most children worry about, but this makes it very difficult for them to relax and have fun. There may also be difficulty falling asleep.
  • Their worries can make them feel sick, tired or very scared, which can cause them to miss days of school. They may look for excuses not to go to places that cause them anxiety and it is important to understand that the reason for not wanting to go is not laziness but anxiety.
  • Feeling extreme fear about a specific situation or something specific, such as some animals (dogs, insects, etc.) or going to the dentist.
  • Older children who become very anxious when they have to separate from their parents or have to leave home. Specifically when this stage has been successfully overcome and they are again afraid of separation.
  • Episodes of intense, sudden and unexpected fear, including symptoms such as heart palpitations or difficulty breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky and sweaty.
  • In some cases they may be so frightened that they stop talking or only talk at home or to their best friends, but not to anyone else.


What causes anxiety?

It is a multiplicity of reasons, among which you can find genetic aspects (families with a history of anxiety), neurochemical (imbalance in neurotransmitters that help regulate emotions), environmental (bullying, very demanding educational systems), learning/identifications (close people with anxiety disorders). So it is important to perform a detailed evaluation to find the best treatment.


How can I help my child?

First, it is important to learn about anxiety so that you can better understand what is happening to your child. Help them talk about their feelings.  Listen to him and let him know that you understand, love and accept him. Having a strong emotional relationship with you will make them feel safe.

Related: Starting College with Social Anxiety Disorder

Seek professional help to provide both you and your child with tools and skills to cope with anxiety. The goal is not to eliminate the anxiety, but to help your child manage it. Be patient for therapy to work; getting your child to feel better is a process that takes time.

With the support of Dr. Emily Kosche, specialist in psychology. She obtained a degree in Clinical Psychology from the Universidad de las Américas. Dr. Kosche specializes in individual, child, family and couple psychotherapy, psycho-pedagogical and vocational evaluations. She has completed several diploma courses and workshops in order to provide the best care to her patients.