Five Things to Know About Your Child and Anxiety

The winter season can be a hard time for many children, particularly this year after many kids have faced challenges with COVID protocols. Anxiety in children is very common – in fact, Dr. James Goodman, board certified pediatrician with Circle Health Pediatrics in Pelham NH, discusses how to recognize signs of anxiety in children and teens, and how to support your child’s mental health throughout these formative years.

Anxiety in children is common

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 7.1% of children in this country aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety. The rate of diagnosis increases as age increases.

The level of worry matters

Evaluate the amount of worrying that is going on. Is it just occasional, like before a test, or are the symptoms long-lasting and affecting their normal daily activities? Problems deserve attention when they impact daily activities.

Symptoms can be telling

Examine behavior or physical symptoms to see if there may be something new going on. Sometimes these changes can be due to developmental stages or puberty and the hormonal fluctuations that accompany it.

Anxiety often presents with physical symptoms such as upset stomach, headaches, fatigue, or difficulty eating or sleeping. Children can also become angry and irritable, or have repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty. These symptoms can indicate a panic disorder.

Anxiety disorders often differ based on the cause

Examples of different types of anxiety disorders include separation anxiety, fear about a specific thing or situation (often called phobias), social anxiety, or constant worrying in the present or about the future, which is considered generalized anxiety.

If you believe your child has anxiety, it’s important to dig into the cause. Is the cause nervousness with social situations, a crippling fear of insects, or something else? Do not ignore signs that you are concerned about.

Talk to your child’s doctor

You as a parent know your child the best, so if behaviors seem off and begin to impact school performance or social interactions with friends, it is important to get some help.

First, have your child see their healthcare provider. The provider will first rule out any health conditions that could be causing the symptoms. If no conditions are found, the provider may advise you to take your child to a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or behavioral therapist. If your child goes to school, the school’s staff (counselors, school psychologists, and teachers) may become important members of their treatment team.

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