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Anxiety in Children: Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Childhood is one of our favourite phases of life. It is also known as the moulding age. This is because children are like wet clay, you can mould their lifestyle and habits. Experiences and learnings we get in our childhood tend to stay with us longer in our adulthood. And what if this most enjoyable phase of life is wasting due to anxiety?

Anxiety is a non-medical term that is a sensation or feeling of fear of something bad about to happen. Basically feeling you get when you are worrying or fearing about something particular. Anxiety is associated with stress. Hence, it causes physical symptoms like muscle tension too. You may experience it when some important or difficult thing is going to happen like an exam or interview. Also, anxiety can make an easy way when you have stress. But if anxiety is so normal to happen, then why is it considered to be a mental health issue? There is a difference between basic anxiety and anxiety disorder. When you be anxious constantly, you may start experiencing anxiety without any reason. Even you may begin to face severe anxiety symptoms at small incidents.

Anxiety in Children

An anxiety disorder in Children may interface with their day-to-day activities such as going to school, socializing with new people, playing games. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America report that 25.1% of young people between the ages of 13 and 18 have an anxiety disorder. Also, untreated anxiety disorders are more likely to disturb children with their studies, emotional foundation. Some children may get into substance abuse.

Also Read: How small changes help in weight loss?

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in children

Symptoms of anxiety in children may differ from that of adults. Children with an anxiety disorder may cry very easily, miss out on school more often, or stay angry at their parents and want to leave them. They may also feel scared and uncomfortable in social gatherings. They may refuse to talk to people or engage in new activities

Physical symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • shaking
  • shortness of breath
  • butterflies in the stomach
  • a hot face
  • clammy hands
  • dry mouth
  • a fast heartbeat

Children with anxiety may also find difficulty in breathing, have bad dreams, struggle to concentrate. These children can be very reactive and angry at things that are actually very small. Thus anxiety promotes irritatable behaviour. Some children want to use the toilet very often or say that they have frequent stomach aches.

Types of Anxiety Disorders in Children

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

With this common anxiety disorder, a person worries excessively about many things. Any person with generalized anxiety may over worry about their health, career, school, family, or any other issue which doesn’t even require this much attention. They may think of the worst possibility for any situation or problem. A child with this disorder might be very anxious about basic tasks of his life like

  • schoolwork
  • grades and exams
  • friends
  • family
  • relationships
  • how well they perform in activities such as music or sports

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks have symptoms like anxiety attacks in a more intense form. A panic attack needs no triggering point to start. Though when a person is suffering from panic disorder, any small or big problematic situation or thing can trigger anxiety and that anxiety can easily lead to a panic attack.

A child with panic disorder is expected to get 2-3 unexpected panic attacks. They may get it without any warning. A child can be more anxious and worried about getting another attack after the first hit.

Social Anxiety Disorder

It is also known as social phobia. If intense anxiety triggers you while doing any social activity such as going to a party, speaking in front of others, etc, then you have social phobia. In this, the person avoids social interactions as much as he can. A child suffering from Social anxiety disorder will try to avoid social interactions and initiating a conversation. They will worry excessively about interacting with other people. They may feel extremely anxious about meeting new people or being called on in class.

Selective Mutism

It is a more severe kind of social anxiety that usually occurs in teens and children only. In This condition, a child may feel uncomfortable or anxious while talking in specific situations. Although they may talk with the people they feel comfortable with. Sometimes, parents or caregivers only find out that their child has selective mutism when teachers report that the child refuses to speak in class.

Also Read : Anxiety Vs Depression – Differences and Similarities


You can’t expect anxiety to go away just in one day. But a child is most affected by the environment of his home and family. It is very important for parents or guardians to create an environment where children can talk about their feelings and problems. Other ways by which you can help your child at home are:

  • Teach the child to recognize signs of anxiety, including physical symptoms.
  • Stick to regular routines whenever possible.
  • Practice taking three deep, slow breaths together with the child.
  • For young children, distraction can help. For instance, if a child is anxious about going to stay with other family members, playing games such as “I spy” can help.
  • Make a “worry box” out of an empty shoebox or tissue box. The child can write down their worries and add them to the box. At the end of the day or week, a caregiver can talk through the concerns with the child.
  • Ahead of a big change, such as moving or changing schools, give the child time to adjust to the idea and talk about the reasons that it is happening.
  • To calm down a child during a panic attack or anxious moment, give them an object and ask them to describe it in as much detail as possible.

When to see a doctor?

If you feel like there is no improvement in your child’s health, then visiting a doctor may help. It is very important to see a doctor if your child is not feeling any better.

A doctor can provide the following treatments:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps a person with an anxiety disorder or any other mental health issue to take out whatever they have in their mind. It’s very important to know that what is going on in the head of a mental health patient. Hence, the therapist makes the patient comfortable enough to talk. During therapies, patients can actually get many answers to their doubts. A child can be very sensitive while talking about things like anxiety. Therapy can help him out in expressing himself. Also, it will open the doors of comfort level with the therapist.


There are some antidepressant medications available that can help in boosting up the happy hormone in a patient’s body. But one should consult a specialized doctor before taking any sort of medicines as they are very subjective when it comes to affecting health. But when it comes to children, they can’t have normal antidepressants that an adult would get due to strong doses.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are one option for treating childhood anxiety, as they do not cause many side effects. They are also nonaddictive.

SSRIs work by increasing the levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain, which is associated with feelings of happiness and well-being.

For a child with severe anxiety, a doctor may recommend benzodiazepines. They are not as common as other options, as they can become addictive. For this reason, a doctor will only prescribe benzodiazepines on a short-term basis.

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