Have you spotted symptoms that suggest your child might be experiencing anxiety?
Dr Jenna Vyas-Lee is a child psychologist who has helped many children with anxiety to manage their symptoms. She specialises in child anxiety treatment and can perform assessments involving questionnaires to identify anxiety in children. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of child anxiety, our approach to diagnosis and the treatment options available.
What is child anxiety?
All children feel anxious sometimes. It’s a normal human emotion, whatever your age. Anxiety is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong. A warning system that allows us to stay safe.But sometimes this warning system gets set off without reason.
We experience physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety without a rational external cause. Children can get stuck in cycles of anxiety because they don’t have an effective way to work through difficult feelings. If a child experiences unwarranted fears and worries that start to interfere with home and school life, they may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of child anxiety
Symptoms of child anxiety often present as changes in behaviour.
Avoidance of places, people or things
Excessive reassurance seeking
Sleep or appetite changes
Tantrums and emotional outbursts
Excessive expressions of anger
Being very tearful
Some children may experience a specific type of anxiety disorder. Here are some different types of anxiety disorder and how they manifest:
Separation anxiety (being extremely afraid when away from parents)
General anxiety (being very worried about bad things happening in the future)
Phobias (extreme fear of a particular thing or situation, for example, dogs or visiting the dentist)
Panic disorder (episodes of intense fear, with a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking or dizziness)
Social anxiety (fear of going to places where there are lots of people, for example, school)
If your child is experiencing one of these disorders, they may develop safety behaviours to cope.
For example, if they have separation anxiety, they may resist situations where they are not with you. Or if they have a phobia, they may avoid the thing or situation they’re afraid of.
Sometimes a child experiencing anxiety can develop symptoms of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). These include:
Obsessions (intrusive thoughts which repeatedly enter your mind)
Distress (emotional upset caused by these obsessions)
Compulsions (repetitive actions like checking, counting or hand washing)
Diagnosing child anxiety
At Kove, we spend time with you and your child to understand the difficulties you’ve been having before we give a diagnosis. Semi-structured interviews and questionnaires help us understand the causes and maintenance factors of your child’s anxiety. Maintenance factors are ways your child might be thinking that fuel their anxiety. Once we understand what is causing and maintaining the symptoms your child is experiencing, we can reach a diagnosis.
Child anxiety treatments
We use a range of treatments to address the symptoms of child anxiety. These usually involve both you, the parent, and your child.
Our treatment process usually starts with teaching you and your child about how anxiety starts, and what keeps it going. We explore the links between thoughts, feelings, physiology and behaviour. Next, we set challenges that involve dropping the safety behaviours your child has adopted to cope with their anxiety. For example, spending some time away from you if they have separation anxiety. We support them to “ride the anxiety wave” as they face their fear, until their feelings of anxiety decrease. To make sure that both parents and young people feel these tasks are achievable, we always plan them together.
This method has the potential to reduce symptoms of anxiety and allows a family to function better. It also helps the young person become more resilient.
Other Child Symptoms
Are you concerned that your child may have low self-esteem? Do they often feel down about themselves and tend to dwell on their flaws and shortcomings? Take action now and seek professional help to support your child’s emotional well-being. Contact us to schedule a consultation and start building a brighter future for your child.
Join us now to discuss how to enhance your relationship with your children and effectively manage their behavioral difficulties with less stress. Let’s work together towards a happier and healthier family dynamic.