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Anxiety in Children

Lauren Nichols, Social Media Intern

Hello everyone! This is Lauren Nichols, a Social Media Intern at A Friend of Mind, and since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it would be fitting to talk about something that I personally struggle with – anxiety! Let’s discuss anxiety in children, the common symptoms, and how we can help a child that could potentially have an anxiety disorder. 

It is normal for children to experience anxiety at different times throughout their development. For example, it is common for children between the ages of 18 months to three years to experience some anxiety when being away from their parents or caregivers (Anxiety and Depression Association of America [ADAA], 2015). Many young children are also afraid of thunder and lighting, the dark, animals, and nightmares (Beesdo et al., 2009). While older children commonly have a fear of being rejected by their peers (Beesdo et al., 2009). However, if these fears become more extreme or persistent over time, it could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. 

Common Anxiety Symptoms in Children 

Children with separation anxiety disorder experience extreme anxiety when they are separated from their parents/caregivers or are away from their home (ADAA, 2015). Common signs of separation anxiety disorder in children include being unable to leave their parents/caregivers side or being more difficult to calm than other children in the same situation (ADAA, 2015). 

Children with social anxiety disorder have an intense fear of social situations and are often self-conscious when around other people (Coltrera, 2018). They are afraid to start conversations with their peers and are terrified of being called on in class (ADAA, 2015). 

Children with a specific phobia have an extreme, irrational fear of an object or situation such as thunderstorms, medical procedures, animals, and the dark (ADAA, 2015). They will attempt to avoid these things or situations that they fear, or will anxiously endure them, which may look like tantrums, crying, avoidance, stomachaches, headaches, and clinging (ADAA, 2015). 

Treating and Managing Anxiety in Children 

If you think your child may have an anxiety disorder, talk to your child’s healthcare provider about getting an evaluation. Some treatments could include therapy, medication, providing social support, or having a predictable routine (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2022). 

It is also important for the child to have a healthy lifestyle, as it can help manage symptoms of anxiety. This can include eating nutritious food, participating in physical activity, getting the recommended amount of sleep, and practicing mindfulness techniques (CDC, 2022). 

References: 

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2015, September). Childhood Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://adaa.org/find-help/by-demographics/children/childhood-anxiety-disorders

Beesdo, K., Knappe, S., & Pine, D. S. (2009). Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents: Developmental Issues and Implications for DSM-V. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 32(3), 483–524. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2009.06.002

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 19). Anxiety and Depression in Children. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html

Coltrera, F. (2018, August 14). Anxiety in children. Harvard Health. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/anxiety-in-children-2018081414532

 

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