Once you recognize the signs of anxiety in your child, you can start to help them and teach them how to help themselves, when anxiety strikes.
Mental Signs of Anxiety
- Phobias. Phobias are strong, irrational fears of things that are not likely to be an actual threat. Common phobias in kids include the dark, fire, monsters, and robbers.
- Social anxiety. Fear or avoidance of birthday parties, talking to other kids on the playground, or playdates.
- Hypochondria. Constant fear that they are ill, or that every little illness may be signs of or become something much more serious. They may seek reassurance from parents, or request frequent visits to their doctor or the school nurse.
- Nightmares or sleep issues. Fear of going to sleep, fear of sleeping in their own room or bed, insomnia, and nightmares are all signs of an anxious mind.
Physical Signs of Anxiety
- Diarrhea or constipation. Digestive motility (movement of food through the digestive tract) is highly sensitive to the hormones released during stress and anxiety. Some anxious kids can either get triggered to get rid of or hold onto the contents of their gut - in unconscious preparation for a stressful experience.
- Shortness of breath. Another common physical manifestation of anxiety in kids is the feeling that they can’t breathe well, or that they just can’t get a full breath. This can lead to hyperventilation, or even trigger a full blown panic attack.
- Hives. Hives are related to high levels of histamine in the system. People with high histamine levels often experience anxiety, because histamine affects serotonin and dopamine regulation in the brain.
- Panic attacks. Panic attacks may be triggered simply by anxious thoughts, but they are often a sign of an overstimulated nervous system.
- Muscle tics and twitches. Facial tics or muscular twitches are often exacerbated when anxiety starts to ramp up.
- Increased Sensitivity to Pain. It’s not so much that anxiety can cause pain, but it can affect a kid's experience of pain. Pain is initially “felt” in the brain - it’s only when a pain signal from a body part gets to the brain that we feel anything (that’s why you can get your teeth drilled after a nerve block and not feel anything). In a hypersensitive or hyper vigilant brain, the awareness of even a small injury can feel that much more intense.
Help for Anxious Kids
It's important that you know how to recognize all the signs of anxiety in your kids so that you can help them notice and learn to manage their response.
Check out the following articles for tips and ideas for managing your kid's anxieties.