Anxiety in our children and teens is on the rise with 1 in 4 Australians affected at some point in their lives. Children with anxiety will often be labelled as ADHD, naughty, or stubborn. Our children won’t tell us they are suffering from anxiety so here are 7 frequently observed symptoms of childhood anxiety;
Stomach pains or feeling sick. You may have used the term “I have butterflies in my stomach.” The brain and gut are in constant communication through the Vagus nerve, so when something makes us feel stressed or worried it will also affect digestion. Some children may even experience symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Displays anger or very moody. It can be overwhelming for young people to process anxiety and this may cause frustration which can lead to lashing out or a total meltdown.
Perfectionism. Perhaps colouring outside the lines is enough for your child to rip up a picture and give up or maybe it’s not having 2 socks that sit at exactly the same height on their legs means it’s end of the world. Trying to control external events is common for people with anxiety as internally they feel they have lost control.
Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Maybe your child’s bed time routine go on for hours in your home or you are regularly sharing a bed with your child. Up to 40% of Australians don’t get adequate sleep which exacerbates the symptoms of anxiety, the worse the anxiety the worse the quality of sleep and so the round a bout continues.
Dislikes being separated from parents. Tears and tantrums have become the norm at kindergarten, school drop off and swim lessons. Perhaps they have dug their fingers into your jumper so tightly you have to peel each clinging finger off one by one, all while your child is screaming “Noooo!” (yep, I’ve been there too).
Appetite changes. They were once a voracious eater, now they pick or refuse food they once enjoyed.
Bed wetting, nail biting, hair twirling, skin picking and tics. These habits are often ignored or maybe you are crossing your fingers hoping they will eventually grow out of them. However these habits can also be symptoms of anxiety.
There are of course many other symptoms of childhood anxiety that I see in my clinic. If you feel your child may have anxiety it’s important to get professional help so that your child can learn techniques and tools to control overwhelm, gain confidence and improve self- esteem.