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Does My Child Have Anxiety?

Be able to spot the warning signs of anxiety in your child.

Anxiety is undoubtedly on the rise, not just for adults but for children. The pandemic has certainly left kids feeling uncertain and worried about the future. It’s important to pick up on the signs that your child might have anxiety so you can talk with their pediatrician about tips and strategies to help them better cope with the issues they’re facing.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Children with anxiety may display these behaviors or motions,

  • Avoidance
  • Anger and aggression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained physical symptoms such as stomachaches
  • Nail-biting and other “nervous habits”
  • Bedwetting
  • Appetite changes
  • Insomnia
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Issues focusing or concentrating

How Can I Help My Child?

It’s important to figure out the type of anxiety your child is dealing with to help them cope with these emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. There are certain habits you can start adopting now that can help your child better deal with their anxiety symptoms,

  • Don’t try to reason with your child when they are panicked or anxiety
  • Help them take deep belly breathes to help stabilize their sympathetic nervous system
  • Validate your child’s fears and listen to them; never dismiss them or tell them to “buck up”
  • Don’t avoid the fear, which can often make it worse, but help your child face the fear with baby steps (talk to your child’s pediatrician about the best ways to do this)

These are some helpful tips to get parents started when they notice their child’s “worry brain” taking over. Of course, if you suspect that they could have a true anxiety disorder, it’s important to speak with your pediatrician right away.

How Are Childhood Anxiety Disorders Treated?

In most cases, your pediatrician will provide a referral to a psychotherapist that works with children. The first appointment, or intake session, will allow the therapist to get to know your child and determine if they have an anxiety disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy tends to be the ideal treatment option to help children talk through their fears and discover effective coping strategies to help them face and overcome their fears. Sometimes medications are prescribed in conjunction with therapy and lifestyle changes.

Worried that your child might have an anxiety disorder? If so, this is the ideal time to speak with their pediatrician to find out if they could benefit from additional diagnostic testing or talking to a mental health professional who works with children. A pediatrician can provide resources, support, and referrals.

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