Anxiety in Children: Signs and Symptoms To Look For

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but not everyone experiences it the same way. Children are no exception.

In some instances, anxiety in children is related to a specific event they fear to face. For example, an upcoming sports game or a big presentation at school.

Other times, your child might feel anxious all the time and in most situations.

When anxiety symptoms last for a while and they’re not addressed, they might become a challenge for your child or teen.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), the average age for an anxiety diagnosis in children is between 4 and 8 years old. This often coincides with the time a child starts school. But this is not the only time a child might develop anxiety symptoms.

A younger child might not know how to express their emotions. An older child might feel you won’t understand them, even if they tried to explain. This is natural and not uncommon.

Learning to recognize the specific symptoms of anxiety in children can help you provide the support they need and when they need it.

There are a few types of anxiety disorder, and each of them can have its own symptoms.

Common anxiety disorders in children include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Selective mutism
  • Separation anxiety

Some children will develop symptoms of one or more anxiety disorders, but it doesn’t mean they have the condition. If the symptoms are temporary, it is likely not an anxiety disorder.

In general, symptoms of anxiety in children may include:

  • bed-wetting
  • needing constant reassurance
  • complaining of a stomach ache or other pains, particularly before specific activities or events
  • avoiding everyday situations, like school or social events
  • difficulty eating or sleeping
  • tearfulness without a reason
  • clinginess (especially if this is a new behavior in the child)
  • angry outbursts
  • being fidgety or unable to rest
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty doing chores or schoolwork
  • physical symptoms like shaking or flushing

These symptoms may or may not be part of an anxiety disorder. Only a mental health professional can offer a correct diagnosis.