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What Causes Anxiety in Children

What Causes Anxiety in Children

Let’s face it, learning to navigate this giant world of ours, while also being the smallest person in the room most of the time, can inspire fear not too different from being chased by dinosaurs and monsters under the bed.

Not to mention that, as children, we rely on “grown-ups” for everything including food, water, and shelter.

Childhood Can Be a Terrifying Ordeal: Identifying Causes of Anxiety in Children

While fear and anxiety are natural in many cases, intense anxiety should never be natural. Fear is caused by something right in front of us while anxiety is defined as uneasiness, nervousness, worry, dread, or fear of what’s about to happen or what could potentially happen. Yes, childhood can definitely be a terrifying ordeal for some children if not equipped with the appropriate coping skills..

As we grow, children naturally start to accept more responsibility which also means more stress. Much of this stress is part of the natural growth progression and starts to fade as a child grows more comfortable with changes. How do we figure out when a child is facing normal anxiety and when they may be suffering from a potential anxiety disorder?

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Everyday Anxieties vs. Anxiety Disorders

It is normal to feel anxiety when facing a task or event for the first time and, as we all know, childhood is full of firsts. During most of our childhood, we face new, unfamiliar, and challenging issues nearly every day.

Some of the most common events that may trigger normal feelings of anxiety may include school test performance anxiety, public speaking anxiety, and first date or dance anxiety. While none of these situations actually affect a person’s physical safety or wellbeing, they may cause someone to feel “threatened” by potential embarrassment. Fitting in and being accepted by classmates can seem like the most important thing in the world to a developing child.

Because mild anxiety can cause a person to feel more alert, focussed, and ready to tackle potential problems, it can help us do our best in situations where performance is key. Too much anxiety can lead to a child feeling overwhelmed, tongue-tied, and unable to do what they need to do.

How Can I Recognize the Mental Signs Depression or an Anxiety Disorder in My Children?

Anxiety disorders happen when a child is so preoccupied with fear, dread, or worry that it begins to affect their development and performance at school and in everyday life. Some signs that your child may be experiencing signs of a disorder include:

  • Restlessness or trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension

If these symptoms persist for 6 months or more, it may be time to seek professional help. Our Adolescent Healthcare Professionals are here to help. Learn more about how we can meet your needs here.

Please understand that the difficulties your child may be experiencing are not a reflection on your parenting. At SUN Behavioral, we are here to help you and your child’s needs and not to cast judgment.

There are a lot of different anxiety disorders that may affect your child and are named to reflect some of their unique symptoms. Here are some of the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders in children:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

A child with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may have constant fear and worry regarding school, the safety of family members, or the future. Generalized anxiety may cause a child to miss school or other social activities and experience physical ailments such as headache, tiredness, tight muscles, stomachache, and vomiting. Worries can feel like a burden on your child, making life seem out of control and overwhelming.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

In children with OCD, anxieties show themselves as both obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are bad, intrusive thoughts that are often uncontrollable while compulsions are what your child’s brain is telling them will make the bad thoughts go away. Has your child ever expressed the importance of a certain action without any tangible reason why? This may be an early sign of OCD.

Social Anxiety Disorder:

To children, or anyone, with social anxiety disorder, any social activity, however small, may seem like a challenge that they cannot tackle. Speaking in front of others may be particularly challenging for these children. Has your child ever pretended to be sick or outright refused to go to school or another social activity? This can be normal occasionally but if it becomes habitual, this may be a sign of social anxiety disorder.

Separation Anxiety:

Some children may show extreme anxiety about being alone or separated from parents or siblings. In many cases, a child may refuse to sleep alone or sleep at all. Nightmares about separation are also common for these children. For a child that experiences separation anxiety, the step toward traditional schooling can be an extremely difficult transition.

Child Anxiety & Depression FAQs

What are signs of anxiety in a child?

Some common signs of anxiety in children may include: fatigue, restlessness or trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, irritability, and muscle tension. An anxious child may avoid going to school or social situations in general and be preoccupied with feelings of worry.

How do you stop anxiety in children?

It is important to know that some anxieties faced by growing children are natural and will work themselves out. If symptoms of childhood anxiety persist for longer than 6 months, it may be time to seek professional treatment. The approach to treating childhood anxiety is less about stopping anxiety altogether and more about helping your child manage anxiety in an effective way.

What causes anxiety disorders to develop?

Experts are unsure as to how exactly anxiety disorders develop in children but there are a number of factors that can play a part. These factors may include brain biochemistry, genetics, stressful living situations, learned behaviors, and traumatic experiences.

Does childhood anxiety go away?

Anxiety can be a natural part of growing up. Because of this, children will often grow out of childhood anxiety. When anxieties persist or become overwhelming, it may be time to seek professional help. At SUN Delaware, we’re here to help serve you and your child’s unmet needs with a personalized treatment plan.

Seeking Help for Your Child or Teen at SUN Behavioral Health in Delaware

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These are only a few of the most common anxiety issues that young children may face. It is important to note that anxiety disorder is the most common issue affecting mental health today. Because of this, there are many different methods used to treat anxiety. At SUN Delaware, we’re here to help serve you and your child’s unmet needs with a personalized adolescent therapy plan.

We currently provide care for adolescents starting at age 13 and some 12-year-old children depending on their clinical presentation.

It is important to be aware that your child’s struggles with mental health issues are not your fault. Seeking professional therapeutic help for your child does not mean that you’ve failed or done anything wrong. It shows a commitment to providing your child and family with all the tools they need to succeed.

As a parent, watching your child suffer from mental health hardship can be an incredibly difficult experience. When it comes to tackling these sensitive issues, you’re not alone.

At SUN, our master’s level clinicians are equipped with the skills necessary to guide your child towards mental health and clarity. If your child is struggling, we can help. Please call us today at 302-604-5600.

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