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How Do I Know If My Child Has Anxiety

How Can I Be Tested For Social Anxiety

Anxiety – Parenting Help

There is no medical test for social anxiety disorder. A psychiatrist or other mental health professional can make a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder based on your own description of your symptoms, how they occur, and in what situations. Your doctor will use criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to determine if your symptoms warrant a diagnosis.

Some Common Signs Of Anxiety*

  • Over thinking things and catastrophizing
  • Perfectionism worries about his/her competence and how others will view him/her
  • Rigidity demands that things be executed in a certain way
  • All or nothing thinking either everything is a success or its a failure theres no area in between
  • Focussing on the negative/jumping to negative conclusions
  • Minimizing the positive
  • Physical signs that have no physical medical explanation such as recurring stomach aches, headaches, tight chest, nausea, rapid heart rate, muscle aches/soreness, shortness of breath
  • Going into the future and thinking of the worst case scenario
  • Fight especially when you ask your child to do something thats causing angst
  • Flight runs away from or completely avoids situations and/or social activities
  • Freeze takes a really long time to warm up or sometimes never warms up to a situation
  • Highly sensitive
  • Irrational fears/phobias
  • Repetitive actions counting, clicking, hand washing, checking, hoarding

Normal Anxiety Or Anxiety Disorder How To Tell The Difference

Every person, child, and adult, is going to feel anxious at some point, says Eli R. Lebowitz, PhD, director of the Program for Anxiety Disorders at the Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine. Anxiety is a normal emotion that has a dual purpose. It prevents us from doing something dangerous and can motivate us as well, says , director of Alvord, Baker & Associates, a psychotherapy practice that specializes in the treatment of children, adolescents and adults with anxiety and other disorders. For example, anxiety might motivate a child to practice the piano for his recital or be the encouragement a child needs to do their homework so they can be prepared for class.

What differentiates normal from problematic anxiety is the degree to which the anxiety interferes with functioning that you would expect for a child of or developmental stage, says Alvord. Children with anxiety disorders inevitably begin to avoid situations, things, people, and places that make them anxious, says Alvord. Avoidance is the hallmark of anxiety disorders.

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Help Your Child Face Their Fears

This is the fine line every parent, caregiver and teacher must walk with a child struggling with anxiety. You must respect the child’s fear, but that does not mean giving in to the fear.

“I think our initial reaction when we see an anxious child is to help them and protect them and not to push them or encourage them to do the things that they’re afraid of,” Pine says. But, he adds, one of the things researchers have learned from years of studying anxiety in children is “how important it is to face your fears.”

This might be hard for some parents to hear, but we heard it from every expert we interviewed. As to why it’s important to face your fears, Lewis says, “the more that you avoid or don’t do certain things, it’s almost implicitly teaching the child that there is a reason to be anxious or afraid if we’re not doing the things that are difficult. It’s sending this message that, ‘Oh well, there is potentially a dangerous component to this.’ ”

So it’s important, Lewis says, “that children understand that things are gonna be difficult in life. Things can be scary. We can do them. … I tell some of my patients, ‘You can feel scared. That’s OK. We’re gonna do it anyway.’ “

And Truglio agrees. While we do have to validate our kids’ feeling of fearfulness, she says, “we can’t always give in to this feeling. … You need to push them a little bit. And there’s this fine line: You can’t push so far, because that’s going to break them, right? They’re going to fall apart even more.”

How Is Anxiety Diagnosed In Children

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If youre wondering whether your child has an anxiety disorder, the first step is a conversation with your childs pediatrician or primary care provider. They can help assess the severity and recommend a mental health expert or a clinic that specializes in diagnosing and treating children.

Once you find a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist to work with, theyll likely do an evaluation involving a screening and assessment tools designed specifically for children.

After reaching a diagnosis, theyll work with you on developing a treatment plan that may involve psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle interventions.

The good news about anxiety, especially in children, is its treatable. Here are the most common treatment options for children with anxiety:

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When Is Anxiety A Disorder That Needs Treating

It is probably time to get professional help for your child’s anxiety if:

  • you feel it is not getting better or is getting worse, and efforts to tackle it yourself have not worked
  • you think it’s slowing down their development or having a significant effect on their schooling or relationships
  • it happens very frequently

Anxiety In Children Is Caused By Frightening Experiences And Events

The development of anxiety in children is linked to a situation or perceived event that is frightening or traumatizing. For example, Sarah’s parents contacted me, frantically stating that their five-year-old daughter no longer wanted to go to school. She was clinging to her mother, crying, and was inconsolable at school for the first hour or so. They were not sure what had happened or why their daughter was so upset all of a sudden. In further discussion, it turned out that their daughter had watched her friend’s mother being taken to the hospital by an ambulance in her neighborhood. Her parents didn’t think that this would affect her, as their neighbor was fine and returned home that same day. However, their five-year-old daughter was traumatized by this experience and believed that if she went to school, the same thing may happen to her mother. As a result, she wanted to stay home and make sure that her mother was okay. Take note that this experience was observed and did not directly impact her or her family. However, for children, the frightening experience may be indirectly experienced or observed and still strongly affect the child.

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How To Handle Separation Anxiety

Remember, it’s only natural for your baby to feel anxious without you, so there’s no reason to feel guilty when you need to get on with other parts of your life. In fact, separation anxiety is usually a sign of how well you have bonded with them.

Instead, you can focus on helping your baby understand and deal with their feelings so they feel more secure. They’ll learn that if you leave them, they will be OK and you will come back. If your baby’s old enough, you can talk to them about what’s happening, where you’re going and when you’ll be with them again.

What To Say To Your Child Before A Test

Recognizing and Treating Problematic Fear & Anxiety in Children | John Piacentini, PhD | UCLAMDChat

Write something simple like, Youve got this! or, You can do it! Write a letter that your child can read at school when shes feeling nervous before the test. Remind her that the test doesnt truly measure how smart or wonderful she is, that everything will be okay and that you love her no matter what.May 3, 2019

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Behavioral Signs Of Anxiety

  • Asks what if? constantly

  • Avoids joining in during class activities like circle time

  • Remains silent or preoccupied when expected to work with others

  • Refuses to go to school

  • Stays inside alone at lunch or recess

  • Avoids social situations with other kids, like birthday parties or extracurricular activities

  • Constantly seeks approval from parents and caregivers, teachers, and friends

  • Says I cant do it! without a real reason

  • Has meltdowns or tantrums

If Your Child Is About To Lose Someone

If a child has a loved one, such as a friend or family member who’s going to die, they can benefit from special support.

A child’s stress level is often at its highest before bereavement because of fear and the unknown.

Pre-bereavement counselling gives a child a chance to think and talk about their feelings and share their worries.

The YoungMinds website has more information on counselling services for children and young people.

Read Also: How To Stop Having Health Anxiety

Why Separation Anxiety Happens

If your baby used to be calm when you left the room and they were happy to be held by people they didn’t know, it may not seem to make sense when they start crying whenever you’re not there or strangers are close.

But separation anxiety is a sign your baby now realises how dependent they are on the people who care for them. That can include their grandparents or professionals closely involved with their care, as well as their parents.

As they get more aware of their surroundings, your baby’s strong relationship with this small group means they don’t feel so safe without you. Their growing awareness of the world around them can also make them feel unsafe or upset in new situations or with new people, even if you are there.

How Do You Know If Your Child Has Anxiety

Anxiety in Women

The hardest part is that your child wont come out and say, I feel anxious. You have to watch for clues.

But first, a warning: I am not a medical expert. Im just a mom whos been in your shoes, and I know what its like to worry about your child.

So I compiled these signs and symptoms from several reputable resources to give you one single checklist for symptoms of anxiety in children.

At the end of this post, you can also get a free printable childhood anxiety symptoms checklist that you can fill out and take to your pediatricians office.

This is the checklist I wish Id had years ago for my child.

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Wont Kids Just Get Over It

Honestly, thats what I thought. I thought we could cope with my childs sleep struggles and her endless worries about school, and eventually she would just grow out of them.

But as a childs brain develops, their anxiety can intensify. Left unchecked, childhood anxiety can cause other serious issues.

Academic struggles. Depression. Substance abuse. Eating disorders. And my throat feels tight as I type this next part because this isnt theoretical or a statistic this could happen to my child kids with anxiety are at increased risk of suicidal thoughts.

This is my baby. When I held my baby in my arms that very first time years ago, I didnt yet know her brain would just happen to be a little too sensitive to triggers and stress.

It took me too long to realize my child might be struggling with an anxiety disorder. Two different pediatricians didnt suggest she may have an anxiety disorder, even after I described the classic symptoms. The only reason we found out was because I felt in my gut that something wasnt right, so I took her to a third doctor.

And now Im on a mission to help other parents notice the signs of childhood anxiety early.

Related: 8 Surefire Ways to Calm an Anxious Kid

What Are The Signs Of Anxiety In A Child

Anxiety can be tricky to identify because it can manifest in many different ways. People often ask whats the difference between a little worrying and anxiety. Therefore, Ive put together a list of common signs of anxiety to give you a general idea of what anxiety can look and feel like.

Everything is on a continuum but if you feel that your child or teen is exhibiting these signs of anxiety on a regular basis, it doesnt seem to be typical for their age and stage of development and its impacting his or her happiness and daily functioning, then I would recommend seeking further professional advice.

*This is by no means an exhaustive list nor a diagnostic list for an anxiety disorder. This list is for informational purposes only and if you notice that your child or teen is experiencing some of these signs of anxiety, its recommended that you discuss this with your family doctor and/or a licensed mental health practitioner.

Read Also: How To Treat Anxiety Disorder

Treating Anxiety In Children

The earlier anxiety disorders in children can be treated, the better. Early treatment can prevent future difficulties, such as loss of friendships, failure to reach academic potential, and low self-esteem.

If any of the above symptoms get to a point where they are interfering with your childâs life, you should consider getting an evaluation from a qualified mental health professional, such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist. If they determine your child needs treatment, they may suggest several options:


Just as they would with an adult, a doctor may prescribe your child medication to help ease their anxiety symptoms. Antidepressants are typically the first choice.


They may also recommend cognitive behavioral therapy . This is a type of talk therapy, where a child tells a therapist about their feelings and experiences. CBT can help children with anxiety unlearn avoidance behaviors. It also helps them learn more helpful patterns of thinking.

Another option is exposure therapy, which aims to systematically help a child face their fears. In this type of therapy, your child sees their fear or relives a moment that made them anxious .

Over time and using techniques they learn in therapy, your child will be able to get more comfortable with their fears or worries and better work through similar moments in the future.

Prevention Of Anxiety And Depression

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It is not known exactly why some children develop anxiety or depression. Many factors may play a role, including biology and temperament. But it is also known that some children are more likely to develop anxiety or depression when they experience trauma or stress, when they are maltreated, when they are bullied or rejected by other children, or when their own parents have anxiety or depression.

Although these factors appear to increase the risk for anxiety or depression, there are ways to decrease the chance that children experience them. Learn about public health approaches to prevent these risks:

Read Also: How To Treat Overthinking And Anxiety

Experiencing Some Stress And Anxiety Is A Normal Part Of Growing Up But Sometimes It Can Be A Bigger Concern Heres How To Spot The Signs And How You Can Help Your Child

From having first-day-of-school nerves and keeping up with schoolwork to meeting new people or trying something new some stress and anxiety is completely normal, and many children will experience it.

And, most often, the stress and anxiety will pass once they finish that essay, get used to that new experience or get some reassurance from you, their parent or guardian.

But, as a parent, how do you know if what your child is experiencing is normal or if theyre dealing with an anxiety disorder that requires help from a pediatrician or mental health professional? Rachel Lilly, PhD, pediatric psychologist at Geisinger Lewistown, helps us break it down.

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