The way anxiety presents itself in an adult patient is significantly different when compared with how it feels for a young child, and even a teenager is likely to experience their own set of symptoms based on their hormones and other interfering factors. The difference in experiences means that even those parents who have the best intentions can easily overlook their child’s symptoms or brush them off as small behavioural or social issues, when in fact these are sure signs of childhood anxiety.

Anxiety can feel very overwhelming, as it isn’t just about feeling anxious frequently. People with anxiety disorders can feel intense and persistent worry and fear about average everyday situations, often involving episodes of intense emotion, anxiety, fear or terror that reach an unmanageable peak within a short amount of time (commonly referred to as a panic attack).

How can I spot symptoms of anxiety in my child?

Mental health conditions such as anxiety do not have a minimum age bracket from which people begin to fall victim to such difficulties. These disorders can be both confusing and even somewhat traumatizing for the children who experience them and for their parents and immediate family, too. Dealing with conditions such as anxiety in children can be very tricky, as oftentimes it can be seriously hard to try and figure out whether your child is suffering specifically from anxiety, or from another disorder that requires a completely different treatment method.

In children, the symptoms associated with mental health conditions such as anxiety can overlap with issues that are directly linked to other disorders, making it easy for parents to mistake anxiety with a learning disability or an attention deficit disorder (ADHD) instead. Anxiety can present itself as difficulty concentrating or a lack of participation, so rather than assuming that your child is struggling with a particular subject due to learning struggles, question whether they may be feeling as though they don’t have the ability to achieve their goals so will not try as a result.

The following symptoms are commonly associated with childhood anxiety, and you should always aim to keep an eye out to identify potential dangers immediately –

  • Agitation and anger
  • Restlessness and an inability to sit still
  • Lack of attention and poor focus
  • Somatic symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches
  • Avoidance or isolation
  • Frequent tantrums and large shows of emotion
  • Crying and fast breathing
  • Refusing to attend school or other important events
  • Meltdowns and arguments (over small things) before heading to school
  • Meltdowns after returning from school about homework
  • Inability to cope with transitions at school
  • Difficulty settling down at night in bed
  • Poor quality interrupted sleep

Moving forward

If you notice that any of these symptoms or behaviors are becoming an issue for your child, consult with a trusted Calgary Psychologist who will approach their anxiety treatment in the most appropriate and thorough manner for the benefit of their future. Childhood anxiety can also be difficult for a parent to cope with, so it’s a good idea to seek out and gain your own support – learning coping mechanisms yourself means that you can set a good example for your little one.