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Checklist for symptoms of anxiety in children (5+)

Amanda Knowles

In this brief guide, we are going to provide a checklist for symptoms of anxiety in children, we will also elaborate on how to identify telltale signs of anxiety in children in the classroom or at home.

Below is a detailed Checklist for physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms of anxiety in children

Physical symptoms

·         Headaches, stomach aches, body aches

·         Refusing to eat

·         Being distracted, restless, agitated even without ADHD

·         Sweating

·         Tense muscles

·         Trouble falling/staying asleep

Emotional symptoms

·         Frequent crying

·         Being grumpy and angry without apparent reason

·         Being inflexible and rigid

·         Being very sensitive

·         Being pessimistic and imagining the worst case scenario

·         Being afraid of minor mistakes

·         Panic attacks(trouble breathing, tightness of chest)

·         Reluctant to let go of parents at school, daycare drop-off

·         Frequent nightmares about separation from parents(separation anxiety)

·         Poor memory and concentration

Behavioral symptoms

·         Seeking constant approval from parent, caregiver or teacher for whatever
          they do

·         Avoiding all class group activities

·         Refusing to go for recess/ lunch and preferring to stay inside

·         Avoiding extra-curricular activities with other peers i.e. birthdays, school
          trips etc.

·         Meltdowns , temper tantrums over random things  

·         Showing opposition and defiance

It is not uncommon for kids to show anxious behaviour in home or at school. With not wanting to eat something or not listening to adults these may appear as signs of anxiety in children. There can be a reason for these behaviors but it is fairly possible that there isn’t any reason and the child was just not in the mood.

So the question is when is it a symptom of anxiety? If these symptoms are present for at least 06 months, are a cause of significant distress for the child, do not go away no matter how much the child tries to relax and impairs functioning at home ,school or with peers it might be one of the anxiety disorders. Seeking professional help would be appropriate at this point.

Treatment options

If you see these symptoms in your child and it interferes with daily functioning, you should consult a therapist for professional opinion. It is fairly important to get evaluated and diagnosed for the best course of treatment. As these symptoms when left unchecked lead to severe mental health issues in adulthood.

There are different treatments depending on the age and type of anxiety of the children. Treatment options include therapy and medication for these symptoms.

·         Counseling

It would help the child understand what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way.

·         CBT

Cognitive behaviour therapy is a talking therapy. It includes helping them understand their own thoughts and how they affect their feelings and how they behave. CBT enables them to change negative thoughts and beliefs with help of a therapist into positive thoughts by practicing different skills in therapy and daily life in the form of homework assignments including worksheets. This form of treatment is time limited and structured.

·         Medication

There are many medications that help control these symptoms. A psychiatrist would prescribe appropriate medication according to the symptoms of your child.

Causes of Anxiety Disorders in children

So what causes anxiety disorders? The natural "fight or flight" response that helped our ancestors avoid predators and other threats.    The part of our brain in charge of the fight or flight response when we are scared or stressed will trigger the nervous, fearful feeling that we call anxiety.

Although everyone often feels anxiety, people with anxiety disorders feel anxiety that is hard to handle and interferes with their functioning. There are biological, family, and environmental variables that can lead to an anxiety disorder in a child.

Biological factors

The brain has special chemicals that send signals back and forth to regulate the way a person feels, called neurotransmitters. Serotonin and dopamine are two major neurotransmitters which can induce feelings of anxiety when they are out of order.

Family/ Genetic factors

Studies have indicated as much as a child can inherit the physical characteristics of a parent, a child can inherit the fear of that parent, too. Furthermore, anxiety may be learned from family members and others who around a child are visibly nervous or anxious.

Environmental factors

Research indicates a traumatic experience such as a divorce, illness, death in the family or a natural disaster may also trigger the onset of an anxiety disorder.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we provided a Checklist for physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms of anxiety in children, we also elaborated on how to spot tell-tale signs of anxiety in children in different settings. Furthermore elaborated on treatment options.

FAQs: Checklist for symptoms of anxiety in children

When should I be concerned about my child's anxiety?

If you feel your child’s fears and worries are interfering with daily life functioning at home, school and with peers you should discuss your concerns with a therapist. Depending on the severity and intensity of the symptoms they would devise an appropriate course of treatment.

How can I help my 7-year-old with anxiety?

Here are some recommendations to help your child escape this cycle

·         Talk to them about their anxieties and worries, understand why they are
          feeling this way.

·         Teach your child to recognize these signs

·         Encourage them to manage their symptoms and reach out for help when
          needed.

·         Encourage them to form a routine, we all find them reassuring.

·         If there’s going to be a big change in the future i.e. moving cities, houses
          etc prepare them in advance accordingly.

·         You can help your child by making them write their worries and putting
          them in an empty box named ‘worry box’ to help them regulate their emotions.

What can I give my child for anxiety?

Anxiety medications such as SSRIs and benzodiazepines have proven to be an effective treatment for kids with anxiety. Any medication should only be used when prescribed by a physician/psychiatrist.

References

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anxiety-disorders-in-children/

https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/managing-feelings/stress-anxiety/signs-your-young-child-might-be-struggling-with-anxiety

https://www.mendability.com/autism-therapy/anxiety-checklist-how-do-i-know-if-my-child-has-an-anxiety-problem/

https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/a/anxiety-disorders/treatments

https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/a/anxiety-disorders/symptoms-and-causes

Mental help Resources

The worksheets on this site should not be used in place of professional advice from a mental health professional. 

You should always seek help from a mental health professional or medical professional. We are not providing any advice or recommendations here.

There are various resources where you can seek help.

You could use Online-Therapy if you feel you need counselling.

If you live in the UK then this list of resources from the NHS may help you find help.

If you live in the USA then you could contact Mental Health America who may be able to assist you further.

Amanda Knowles

Sara Quitlag is an Applied Psychologist, with a deep interest in psychopathology and neuropsychology and how psychology impacts and permeates every aspect of our environment. She has worked in Clinical settings (as Special Ed. Counselor, CBT Therapist) and has contributed at local Universities as a Faculty member from time to time. She has a graduate degree in English Literature and feels very connected to how literature and psychology interact. She feels accountable and passionate about making a "QUALITY" contribution to the overall global reform and well-being. She actively seeks out opportunities where she can spread awareness and make a positive difference across the globe for the welfare of our global society.