Child Anxiety: When a worry is more than a worry!

How do I know if I need to be concerned that my child’s worries are more than normal worries?

What’s the difference between worrying and anxiety?

How do I know when to seek therapy for my child/teenager?

Anxiety in Children

These are just some of the questions that I am often asked as a therapist. After working with children and adolescents for over 25+ years, I can understand why this would be a concern for many parents. Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric diagnosis among children? Current research reports that anxiety disorders affect one in eight children and it is estimated that 13%-17% of children suffer from an anxiety disorder! It’s normal for kids to be anxious from time to time, but how can you know whether your child’s worries are cause for concern? Typically, the difference between normal worry and an anxiety disorder is the severity of the anxiety.

Worrying is a normal reaction to stressful, fearful or even new situations. For example, if your child is worried about passing a test, making a team, getting into college, etc., that’s a normal worry that can create anxiety. However, when the anxiety gets so intense that it impacts your child’s daily functioning, that’s cause for concern. By this, I mean an area of their life…school, sleep, health, relationships, friendships, etc. Too much anxiety can result in physiological symptoms, such as stomach issues, fatigue, and a compromised immune system. Another red flag for anxiety is the avoidance of something that is not typical for your child’s age. Anxiety can impact academic performance by decreasing concentration and limiting decision-making skills. Anxious children typically do not have isolated worries, and often their thinking is unrealistic and catastrophic. When worrying becomes consuming for your child, you may want to consider seeking help from a therapist who specializes in anxiety. Changes in behavior or temperament are common signs that may indicate that your child may be experiencing anxiety.

Symptoms and Signs of Anxiety in Children:

  • Complaints of stomach aches or headaches.
  • Sleep problems or difficulty concentrating.
  • Behavioral changes such as moodiness, a short temper or clinginess.
  • Development of a nervous habit, such as nail biting, picking, etc.
  • Refusal to go to school or changes in behavior at school.

The good news is that with the proper help, your child can learn strategies to cope and navigate through anxiety. Strategies to combat anxiety that are implemented in therapy:

  • Understanding triggers
  • Modifying thoughts
  • Changing the brain
  • Calming techniques

Carolyn McNulty l Anxiety, Divorce & Child Counseling l St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Carolyn McNulty is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders, grief/trauma, divorce/separation, parent/child relationships, depression, gender identity, self-injurious behaviors. Carolyn is also a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem for the dependency court system for Pinellas County. She also serves as a member of the County Crisis team. She has over 25 years of experience with children, adolescents, college students, women, men, and families. Call today for a free consultation 727-344-9867!