Anxiety can sometimes be a normal part of life even when it comes to children growing up Occasional fears like being held by a stranger, being anxious on the first day of school or being afraid of clowns should not alarm parents. A child can experience fears once in a while but when consistent anxieties start to disrupt your child’s life it can be cause for concern.
Some children can experience anxiety on a higher level that could potentially indicate a developing disorder. It is important for parents to know the difference between a normal everyday fear and more severe types of anxiety that could be an issue that needs to be addressed. Fear in response to new or stressful situations can be normal but when anxiety grows out of proportion it can become a problem.
Normal Fears vs Unhealthy Anxiety
Children can experience fear as a process of growing up. Whenever they are faced with a new and unfamiliar situation they might be anxious. New places, new people or even loud noises can elicit a fear response from any child that does not represent a mental health problem. Pre-teens and teens are also likely to experience performance anxiety from time to time worrying about a big test coming up, a presentation or other stressful event.
Older children can more easily express their anxiety and parents can offer their support to help prevent their fears from becoming overwhelming. For healthy children, encouragement can help ease their anxiety but in children with a possible disorder their response might be an increase in distress. When children can’t be comforted or their anxiety never seems to ease, parents should start to pay attention to their mental health. Kids with unhealthy levels of anxiety can have long-term and unrealistic fears which begin to affect their life.
Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder
There are some indications that children may have or are beginning to develop an anxiety disorder. For example, if a toddler experiences intense separation anxiety and continued anxiety into elementary school and then also has many fears into the teen years they could be dealing with a mental illness. Children may fear that something bad will happen to their parent causing them to have trouble sleeping or they might have issues with separation well past their toddler years.
Parents should also be conscious of a child’s unrealistic fears about germs or getting sick along with excessive hand washing which could indicate an anxiety disorder. When fears become out of control and crippling to a child’s daily life, parents should consider having a child diagnosed for early therapy. The earlier parents are able to identify a possible anxiety disorder, the better chance they have of preventing symptoms from becoming unmanageable. Children can suffer from generalized anxiety disorder especially in their teen years when they may focus on performance anxiety that is not easily resolved even with reassurance from their parents.
Children with high levels of anxiety can experience the physical repercussions of their intense worry with issues such as fatigue, stomach pain, headaches and rashes. Those with a true anxiety disorder can exhibit a lasting and consistent pattern of fears and worries that disrupt their life activities. Young children that become overwhelmed with anxiety don’t realize that their fears are unrealistic and are out of proportion to any actual danger. When you start to see signs of anxiety disorder in your child, seek psychiatric help for them so that they can learn valuable coping skills when they experience fear or worries. Children can learn to identify anxious patterns and parents can also learn from a psychiatrist about how to handle their child’s fears effectively.