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What Makes Kids Anxious? 

And no, mom and dad, you don’t CAUSE your children to be anxious.

Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the risk of an anxiety disorder. Research shows that biology, biochemistry, life situations, and learned behaviors play a role. Many anxious kids have anxious family members, and children model behaviors based on what they see. Parental behavior can exacerbate and worsen a child’s problems, but that’s not the same as saying that parents cause the child to have the problem in the first place. Much depends on the child’s nature, innate sensitivity, experiences, and family dynamics. Also, unusual stress, like moving, divorce, a death in the family, or other traumatic events such as witnessing a car accident or domestic violence, can set off an anxiety disorder.

What are signs that my child may have higher-than-normal levels of anxiety?

  1. Your child does not outgrow the fears and worries that are typical in young children
  2. Your child may exhibit fear and worry but also irritability and anger
  3. Your child has interruptions to their sleep patterns or trouble sleeping in general
  4. You child may complain frequently of physiological symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches

 

Often, anxious children are overly tense or uptight. With toddlers and young children, parents may notice increased irritability, excessive crying, tantrums, and more difficulty self-soothing or self-regulating.

 

Children may also exhibit regressive behaviors such as bed-wetting (assuming the child is toilet-trained) or excessive clinginess.

 

In all age groups, Children with anxiety disorders may exhibit physical symptoms in addition to stomachaches and headaches like frequent bathroom urges, rapid breathing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches and tension, and gagging or choking. They may also demonstrate a poor appetite. Psychological and behavioral symptoms include frequent reassurance-seeking, eeding things done precisely the same way and in the same order (rigidity), feeling irrationally threatened, experiencing overwhelm by new experiences, and avoiding any situation— school, people and places, events, social gatherings— that triggers or fuels their anxiety. Children may also become hypervigilant, which means the child is on high alert, constantly monitoring their environment and keeping tabs on everything around them. Hypervigilant children often misinterpret innocuous cues as signs of danger. While surveilling the room is a helpful talent for spies, for a child, it’s exhausting.

 

Other symptoms of anxiety in children include repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or actions (compulsions), fears of embarrassment or making mistakes, and low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.

For more information like this, check out the podcast produced by Child Guidance Resource Centers.

 

For more guidance on anxiety in your family, check out the CGRC’s All About Anxiety Course, as well as their Favorite Resources for Parents and Kids Recommended By Their Clinicians.

 

Link to the full article on the CGRC website: https://www.cgrc.org/blog/help-my-child-is-anxious/

Child Guidance Resource Centers promotes the well-being of children, families, and adults throughout the five county Philadelphia region by delivering evidence-informed behavioral health services and community-wide wellness programs.

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