Does your child seem to stress and worry about everything? Well, anxiety in children can be more common than you think, and it might be happening in your family.
I never realized how anxious I was as a child until I grew older. Considering my anxiety was something I endured from as long as I can remember, I never noticed an onset of the illness. Anxiety in children can be that way.
They can grow up thinking their worry and stress is normal. It sometimes takes another family member or outside observer to notice there’s a problem.
When I realized my son had anxiety, my mindset transformed. No longer could I get angry with him and walk away, thinking my discipline measures were enough. I had to dig deeper and find out why he was lashing out. There was something happening to my son. Something just wasn’t right.
Causes and symptoms of anxiety in children
Many people don’t believe that anxiety in children is real. I lived through this horrible ordeal and I know that childhood anxiety is a fact. I was an older adult when I realized what really occurred during my childhood, and I thought I was educated about the illness.
Then, I wished to help others understand. Anxiety happened to my child, making me want to examine the causes of anxiety in children.
Internal scars and genetic makeup
The causes of childhood anxiety differ from person to person. While some children develop the illness from life’s circumstances, others are born with anxieties such as generalized or social anxiety. Allow me to break these down.
Children who suffer from abuse as a small child can develop anxiety during their later childhood, whether the abuse continues or not. Even after abuse has ended, children can be triggered by certain things causing panic attacks.
Children can also develop anxiety by watching other family members act in anxious ways. If a mother, for instance, worries constantly about changes, the child may mirror these emotions because they think it is appropriate behavior.
Also, if a mother or father endured an anxiety disorder, the imprint may lie in the genes. Many times, this gene can remain dormant until trauma or extreme life changes cause symptoms of anxiety to emerge in the child.
Yes, chances are greater of acquiring an anxiety disorder if the parents or grandparents suffered from this as well.
There is also a chance of developing an anxiety disorder simply by having an imbalance in brain chemistry. Sometimes children can be the only anxious member of the family.
Symptoms of childhood anxiety
The symptoms of anxiety in children are a bit different than for adults. Some children, especially males, will keep quiet about their anxiety, only talking about the problem when it’s become a huge issue. It’s important to notice the symptoms early in order to help children deal with anxiety the right way.
One of the first symptoms of anxiety in children is irritability. This feeling of unrest develops as a result of the child losing control of circumstances in life, but not so much as to become hopeless. The child may lash out at small things or seem silently troubled.
Something is obviously wrong, but most parents see this irritability as rebellion and not a cry for help, which could be the case.
2. Excessive worry
I used to laugh when my son worried about being late for school or whether he was wearing the right shoes, but I don’t laugh anymore. Then, I noticed a pattern that meant my son was suffering from anxiety. I noticed he would worry about things constantly while his brothers seemed to care less.
I also noticed his worrying would take complete control over his plans and his mood. Unfortunately, us adults listening to him thought he was funny and picked on him about his anxious feelings. I soon realized the seriousness of the situation.
So, I started to listen better. This has helped. Pay close attention to how much your child worries. Please, take it seriously.
3. Lack of concentration
Another neglected symptom is the lack of concentration. I noticed this happening to my son in the form of forgetfulness. It wasn’t just a few isolated incidences, he started to forget things on a daily basis, important things.
As I dug deeper, I uncovered his anxiety. His grades were also dropping and I had to find out why. It seemed he couldn’t concentrate on his work, distracted by friends…and yes, worry.
4. Sleep interruption
Although this symptom was fairly absent from my son, it does occur for others. My son seems to sleep right through the night with no problem. He does, however, wake up late at times and stress about how he didn’t hear his alarm.
For some children, sleep is hard, and insomnia is as frequent as homework – maybe it won’t happen, but most of the time, it does.
5. Muscle tension
My son plays football and having muscle aches and pains is common for him. Sometimes, however, he experiences more than his share of tense muscles. He tells me that something is wrong and I listen.
Believe it or not, this seems to help a little. Anxiety starts in the mind, obviously, and it tells the body how to react.
Stiff muscles come from the fight or flight response as well. It’s as if we are waiting for that horrible thing to occur, yeah, that thing we worry about constantly. Whatever these children are stressing about, is what makes them seize and experience these muscle tensions.
Childhood anxiety can also be seen in frequent nausea. I often ask friends if something is bothering them when they are sick to their stomachs because nausea can occur at the drop of a thought.
You will want to pay close attention when your child is feeling nauseous, and offer to talk with them for a while. Maybe they will open up about what they’re feeling.
Have an open mind
Before you punish your child for misbehaving, find out WHY they are misbehaving. Anxiety in children will exhibit symptoms quicker in rebellious actions and school performance. Although they are battling an endless torture of worry, they are also crying for help.
Listen closely and you will be able to hear them.
My heart goes out to you.
By Sherrie H.