How Can I Know If My Child Has an Anxiety Disorder?

Reviewed Mar 2, 2017

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Summary

When a problem has an impact on functioning, it is important to seek the help of a doctor or professional therapist. Consider how the problem is affecting the child’s everyday life.
 

All children feel worried and fearful from time to time. Part of growing up is going through new experiences that can cause anxiety. For instance, the first time a child goes to preschool, or rides the school bus, or sleeps over at a friend’s house can create worry. All of these new life events can cause children to feel anxious or fearful. One difference in anxiety in a child and anxiety in an adult is that children may not use the word anxiety. They may not have the vocabulary to talk about their sense of anxiety. We need to listen to what children are able to say about their feelings, and also look at their behaviors.

A child with normal anxiety may worry for a period of time, but will respond to an adult’s soothing and support. After the child hears reassurance, worries tend to go away. An example is a child anxious about a thunder and lightning storm. A parent might say to the child that the thunder sounds loud, but it doesn’t mean bad things are happening. The flowers and trees will like the rain, and the storm will pass quickly. A parent may voice the idea that although you feel scared or anxious, I will keep you safe. A child with normal levels of anxiety will respond to this and settle down.

Recognizing anxiety disorders

In children with anxiety disorders, often the amount of worry is much greater than you would expect given what causes it. Separation anxiety disorder is the primary children’s anxiety disorder. It’s the fear of being away from home or from their family. It is normal for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. However, it is thought to be a disorder if it happens to a child who is preschool age or older.  Children with anxiety may not respond to parental reassurances. There may be no relief from the child’s sense of anxiety, even with a parent or caregiver offering reassurance.

When anxiety is a disorder, usually it is affecting the child’s functioning at school, at home and with friends. Usually when there is an anxiety disorder the signs of the problem last more than six months. Most children go through tough periods of time where they are more worried or fearful. However, a child with an anxiety disorder is not able to set worries aside. If the worry seems excessive and persists over many months it should be treated. You may want to ask your pediatrician about referral to a licensed child therapist.

Sometimes it is helpful to ask the following questions:

  • What is the actual impact of the problem?
  • How does my child respond to adult reassurance?
  • How does worry affect a child’s ability to make friends?
  • How much does a child’s worrying affect the family as a whole?
  • How is school going?

When a problem is changing how a child is functioning, it may be time to seek professional help.

Signs that may indicate a child has an anxiety problem

  • Repeated toileting accidents
  • Overly clingy behavior
  • Asks lots of “What if..” questions
  • Difficulty with transitions (going places, visiting others, leaving)
  • Difficulty relaxing or concentrating
  • Big startle response
  • Worrying about things before they happen
  • Irritability and tiredness
  • Constant fearful thoughts
  • Frequent complaints of stomachaches and headaches
  • Fear about making mistakes or things not being perfect

If a child is experiencing some of the above signs, it may be a good time to tell your pediatrician you are concerned, and ask for help. In addition to finding help, such as a licensed therapist, you can also take action yourself. Consider enhancing your parenting skills to help your child deal with anxiety better.

What parents can do

  • Think about whether there has been an upsetting event recently, such as divorce, fighting, death, or family illness. If so, learn more or talk to a counselor about how to help your child adjust to difficult life events.
  • Remind your child regularly of your love and support and belief in her.
  • Establish more structure in your child’s day so that there is a predictable routine the child follows on a daily basis. Keep the same bedtime routine every day.
  • If you work, call and check in on a regular basis with school or daycare providers.
  • Join a parenting support group.
  • Build your own self-confidence so you can model it to your child.

Trust your feelings and take action if you notice your child is overly anxious. Meeting with a licensed therapist with your child can help you understand your child’s worries. A therapist can provide suggestions for helping your child become less anxious.

By Rebecca Steil-Lambert, MSW, LICSW, MPH
Source: http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/The-Anxious-Child-047.aspx; http://www.nami.org/
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

When a problem has an impact on functioning, it is important to seek the help of a doctor or professional therapist. Consider how the problem is affecting the child’s everyday life.
 

All children feel worried and fearful from time to time. Part of growing up is going through new experiences that can cause anxiety. For instance, the first time a child goes to preschool, or rides the school bus, or sleeps over at a friend’s house can create worry. All of these new life events can cause children to feel anxious or fearful. One difference in anxiety in a child and anxiety in an adult is that children may not use the word anxiety. They may not have the vocabulary to talk about their sense of anxiety. We need to listen to what children are able to say about their feelings, and also look at their behaviors.

A child with normal anxiety may worry for a period of time, but will respond to an adult’s soothing and support. After the child hears reassurance, worries tend to go away. An example is a child anxious about a thunder and lightning storm. A parent might say to the child that the thunder sounds loud, but it doesn’t mean bad things are happening. The flowers and trees will like the rain, and the storm will pass quickly. A parent may voice the idea that although you feel scared or anxious, I will keep you safe. A child with normal levels of anxiety will respond to this and settle down.

Recognizing anxiety disorders

In children with anxiety disorders, often the amount of worry is much greater than you would expect given what causes it. Separation anxiety disorder is the primary children’s anxiety disorder. It’s the fear of being away from home or from their family. It is normal for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. However, it is thought to be a disorder if it happens to a child who is preschool age or older.  Children with anxiety may not respond to parental reassurances. There may be no relief from the child’s sense of anxiety, even with a parent or caregiver offering reassurance.

When anxiety is a disorder, usually it is affecting the child’s functioning at school, at home and with friends. Usually when there is an anxiety disorder the signs of the problem last more than six months. Most children go through tough periods of time where they are more worried or fearful. However, a child with an anxiety disorder is not able to set worries aside. If the worry seems excessive and persists over many months it should be treated. You may want to ask your pediatrician about referral to a licensed child therapist.

Sometimes it is helpful to ask the following questions:

  • What is the actual impact of the problem?
  • How does my child respond to adult reassurance?
  • How does worry affect a child’s ability to make friends?
  • How much does a child’s worrying affect the family as a whole?
  • How is school going?

When a problem is changing how a child is functioning, it may be time to seek professional help.

Signs that may indicate a child has an anxiety problem

  • Repeated toileting accidents
  • Overly clingy behavior
  • Asks lots of “What if..” questions
  • Difficulty with transitions (going places, visiting others, leaving)
  • Difficulty relaxing or concentrating
  • Big startle response
  • Worrying about things before they happen
  • Irritability and tiredness
  • Constant fearful thoughts
  • Frequent complaints of stomachaches and headaches
  • Fear about making mistakes or things not being perfect

If a child is experiencing some of the above signs, it may be a good time to tell your pediatrician you are concerned, and ask for help. In addition to finding help, such as a licensed therapist, you can also take action yourself. Consider enhancing your parenting skills to help your child deal with anxiety better.

What parents can do

  • Think about whether there has been an upsetting event recently, such as divorce, fighting, death, or family illness. If so, learn more or talk to a counselor about how to help your child adjust to difficult life events.
  • Remind your child regularly of your love and support and belief in her.
  • Establish more structure in your child’s day so that there is a predictable routine the child follows on a daily basis. Keep the same bedtime routine every day.
  • If you work, call and check in on a regular basis with school or daycare providers.
  • Join a parenting support group.
  • Build your own self-confidence so you can model it to your child.

Trust your feelings and take action if you notice your child is overly anxious. Meeting with a licensed therapist with your child can help you understand your child’s worries. A therapist can provide suggestions for helping your child become less anxious.

By Rebecca Steil-Lambert, MSW, LICSW, MPH
Source: http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/The-Anxious-Child-047.aspx; http://www.nami.org/
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

When a problem has an impact on functioning, it is important to seek the help of a doctor or professional therapist. Consider how the problem is affecting the child’s everyday life.
 

All children feel worried and fearful from time to time. Part of growing up is going through new experiences that can cause anxiety. For instance, the first time a child goes to preschool, or rides the school bus, or sleeps over at a friend’s house can create worry. All of these new life events can cause children to feel anxious or fearful. One difference in anxiety in a child and anxiety in an adult is that children may not use the word anxiety. They may not have the vocabulary to talk about their sense of anxiety. We need to listen to what children are able to say about their feelings, and also look at their behaviors.

A child with normal anxiety may worry for a period of time, but will respond to an adult’s soothing and support. After the child hears reassurance, worries tend to go away. An example is a child anxious about a thunder and lightning storm. A parent might say to the child that the thunder sounds loud, but it doesn’t mean bad things are happening. The flowers and trees will like the rain, and the storm will pass quickly. A parent may voice the idea that although you feel scared or anxious, I will keep you safe. A child with normal levels of anxiety will respond to this and settle down.

Recognizing anxiety disorders

In children with anxiety disorders, often the amount of worry is much greater than you would expect given what causes it. Separation anxiety disorder is the primary children’s anxiety disorder. It’s the fear of being away from home or from their family. It is normal for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. However, it is thought to be a disorder if it happens to a child who is preschool age or older.  Children with anxiety may not respond to parental reassurances. There may be no relief from the child’s sense of anxiety, even with a parent or caregiver offering reassurance.

When anxiety is a disorder, usually it is affecting the child’s functioning at school, at home and with friends. Usually when there is an anxiety disorder the signs of the problem last more than six months. Most children go through tough periods of time where they are more worried or fearful. However, a child with an anxiety disorder is not able to set worries aside. If the worry seems excessive and persists over many months it should be treated. You may want to ask your pediatrician about referral to a licensed child therapist.

Sometimes it is helpful to ask the following questions:

  • What is the actual impact of the problem?
  • How does my child respond to adult reassurance?
  • How does worry affect a child’s ability to make friends?
  • How much does a child’s worrying affect the family as a whole?
  • How is school going?

When a problem is changing how a child is functioning, it may be time to seek professional help.

Signs that may indicate a child has an anxiety problem

  • Repeated toileting accidents
  • Overly clingy behavior
  • Asks lots of “What if..” questions
  • Difficulty with transitions (going places, visiting others, leaving)
  • Difficulty relaxing or concentrating
  • Big startle response
  • Worrying about things before they happen
  • Irritability and tiredness
  • Constant fearful thoughts
  • Frequent complaints of stomachaches and headaches
  • Fear about making mistakes or things not being perfect

If a child is experiencing some of the above signs, it may be a good time to tell your pediatrician you are concerned, and ask for help. In addition to finding help, such as a licensed therapist, you can also take action yourself. Consider enhancing your parenting skills to help your child deal with anxiety better.

What parents can do

  • Think about whether there has been an upsetting event recently, such as divorce, fighting, death, or family illness. If so, learn more or talk to a counselor about how to help your child adjust to difficult life events.
  • Remind your child regularly of your love and support and belief in her.
  • Establish more structure in your child’s day so that there is a predictable routine the child follows on a daily basis. Keep the same bedtime routine every day.
  • If you work, call and check in on a regular basis with school or daycare providers.
  • Join a parenting support group.
  • Build your own self-confidence so you can model it to your child.

Trust your feelings and take action if you notice your child is overly anxious. Meeting with a licensed therapist with your child can help you understand your child’s worries. A therapist can provide suggestions for helping your child become less anxious.

By Rebecca Steil-Lambert, MSW, LICSW, MPH
Source: http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/The-Anxious-Child-047.aspx; http://www.nami.org/
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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