|Children can have anxiety over the first day of school.|
Just as adults often suffer from anxiety, children and teens may as well. Sometimes this anxiety is brought on by stressful or traumatic events, but often a specific stressor cannot be identified.
While there are many anxiety disorders, the more common ones in children and adolescents are Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder. These children worry a lot and have trouble in social situations. In very young children, anxiety often manifests itself as Separation Anxiety Disorder and Specific Phobia. These symptoms often include great reluctance of separating from caregivers and various, seemingly unjustified fears.
Children react to the symptoms differently than adults with similar anxiety problems which can make diagnosis very difficult. It can also be hard to differentiate between a “phase” or rational concern and a true disorder. In either case, it can greatly interfere with a child’s sense of well-being and achievement in school.
According to Chris Burke, school liaison from The Guidance Center in Franklin, Tennessee, some common anxiety red flags are:
• “what if” fears about things far in the future – repetitive questions about these concerns
• perfectionism, excessive self criticism, fear of making mistakes and self blame
• easily distressed or agitated when in a stressful situation – may break down and become inconsolable
• headaches, stomach aches, disruptions of sleep, nightmares, refusal to sleep alone
• physical signs of stress when anxious such as sweating, heavy breathing, racing heart, blush of face or neck
• overly responsible, people pleasing, unnecessary apologizing
• avoidance of activities such as school, religious activities, family gatherings, vacations, errands, even friends’ houses
Untreated anxiety can lead to social isolation as well as depression. Once diagnosed, your doctor may be able to help with or without medications. The symptoms may even be side effects of a medication your child is already taking.
If you feel that your child might be suffering from an anxiety disorder, you might first investigate his or her behaviors at school. Getting input from those who observe your child daily in a different atmosphere can be helpful. If your child’s teachers are seeing similar things, it would be wise to pursue your concerns further with a doctor. He or she will be better able to make an appropriate diagnosis with information from all involved.
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Kecia works as a middle school counselor and holds a masters degree in education/school counseling as well as being a certified trainer in the "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" curriculum. She is also a certified NLP life coach, business coach, master weight loss coach and social/emotional intelligence coach. Kecia is a published poet, author and songwriter. She has worked in the field of education/psychology for 20 years and has one grown daughter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org