Children are naturally fearful; whether it’s being scared of the dark or being nervous about starting school, kids have natural anxieties just as adults do. As caregivers, it can be difficult to watch your child worry. There is a difference, however, between normal fears and excessive worrying.
The main difference, and the thing parents should watch out for, is the emotional reaction the child presents. Let’s discuss some examples of what these severe anxieties can look like in children.
Children with severe anxiety may jump to some pretty unrealistic conclusions. For example, while it is normal for kids to be scared of the dark, you may notice that the fear is starting to impact their sleep. A child can work themselves up so much to the point where they truly believe in the “monster” in their closet or under their bed. It may be bad enough where logic and comfort have no effect on them.
Social anxiety can also be normal with children, especially younger kids who are just starting school. They may present as shy and need some time to warm up with social interactions. This can become an issue if it is impacting the child’s emotional state and they become so distraught in social situations that it affects overall communication.
All children get upset and throw tantrums, and sometimes it can seem that these outbursts go on forever. They do end up calming down, especially when comforted by caregivers. However, children with severe anxiety symptoms can often be inconsolable, with symptoms lasting for hours. They may dwell on the specific situation that caused the outburst and be unable to listen to solutions or problem-solving.
Severe anxiety can eventually lead to the child refusing to acknowledge or face the cause of the unpleasant feeling. Solutions will not work with the child, and they may even avoid talking about it altogether. The avoidance can get as bad as the child refusing to leave to house, engaging with social supports, and listening to direction by their caregivers.
Causes of Anxiety
There is no direct or specific cause of anxiety, especially in children. Some are just born anxious, some pick up anxiety tendencies from others. There can be potential risk factors that children diagnosed with anxiety have experienced:
- Frequently moving houses or schools
- Parents fighting
- Death of a loved one
- Illness or recovering from an accident
- Abuse or neglect
Children with previous diagnoses of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder are more likely to develop anxiety symptoms as well.
When to Get Help
The best way to indicate if a child needs help is to watch out for their emotional state. Children suffering from severe anxiety will be constantly fearful and upset. Caregivers may struggle to calm them down or help them through their feelings. Grades may start to slip in school, relationships may be broken or strained, and even physical health could dwindle.
It is important as parents to remain calm and supportive of the child. It will be natural for the caregiver to have an emotional response to these outbursts, but maintaining a calm composure will be important for the child’s treatment.
If you find yourself struggling with your child’s anxiety, reach out to a mental health professional and schedule an appointment. Therapists can help support and guide your child through their emotions, as well as teach parents skills and techniques to regulate emotions at home. Play Therapy and Talk Therapy are great options of support for your child or teen.
Family therapy sessions will also provide support to the child and create a safe space for the child to learn and understand their own thoughts and emotions. Reach out and schedule your first session today!