The anxiety in children can occur in various ways that end up going unnoticed by parents. But in these cases it is vitally important to try to detect it early before it can affect the development of the little ones.
How to detect childhood anxiety?
Detect anxiety in children is much more difficult than in adults. The reason is that most children do not have an adequate vocabulary or introspective ability to be able to express correctly what happens to them (many adults do not either). In this way, they can recognize that they are not well since they usually know how to express their emotions. Therefore, in childhood anxiety, it is vital to look at the signals that children leave us in order to detect and treat them in the shortest possible time.
In addition, anxiety attacks in children are not only worked with, but parents must also participate in their treatment. In fact, many times childhood anxiety is closely related to the father figure.
Characteristics of childhood anxiety
Many people confuse both fear and phobia with anxiety in children. These three terms often tend to be used synonymously to refer to a series of symptoms of discomfort that the person experiences at a certain time, but you have to know that they are not the same, they are not even part of a continuum. It is for this reason that it is important to know how to differentiate and identify them, especially because it will help us to know a little more about our little ones and to be able to interpret a little better the signs that they may leave us in these cases.
Most children experience many different fears throughout their development. These fears are usually of little intensity and are also associated with a certain age. They are usually temporary and end up disappearing spontaneously. These fears are normal, they help the person develop motor and cognitive coping skills. In this way, they are in turn healthy, since they give the child the opportunity to learn to face difficult and stressful situations. They are what is known as “evolutionary fears” and have a specific function linked to each age.
When we have a problem it is when one of these evolutionary fears lasts until an age that does not correspond. In other words, at 6 years of age it is normal for the child to experience fear of the fact that witches or ghosts may exist, however at 14 years of age it is no longer considered “normal” to suffer from this fear.
So that childhood fear can be considered as phobic it must have two characteristics:
- That it is disproportionate to the situation that triggers it. That is to say, fear is irrational, the child tends to get scared by harmless things such as the dark, mice, etc.
- That its high intensity means that the child performs a maladaptive behavior, an inappropriate behavior in the face of the demands of the situation
The childhood anxiety is usually a normal and adaptive response that prepares our body to react to a dangerous situation. Contrary to what happens in the face of fear and phobia, in the causes of anxiety it does not seem that the person knows what exactly is the reason that triggers it. Therefore, children recognize that they are restless but do not know why.
Symptoms of anxiety in children
Although the stages of anxiety in children are very difficult to detect, there are some symptoms that can reveal that we are facing a case of this style of pathologies. Usually, when we are in an anxiety disorder in children we find the following signs.
- It is difficult for them to concentrate
- They wake up from nightmares
- They don’t have good eating habits
- Sudden anger and loss of control
- Constant worries and negative thoughts
- Muscle tension and frequent use of the bathroom
- Cry many times
- Complaints of an upset stomach
When children present many of these symptoms, we could speak that we are facing a case of childhood anxiety.
Causes of childhood anxiety
Anxiety is a natural response with which we are all born. The problems with it are created when the body and the mind interpret as dangers many situations that in reality are not. That is why there are people who have some experiences that make it easier to interpret the danger at certain times. In this way, anxiety in children can influence their development. Therefore, it is vitally important to know its causes and detect it in time.
- Biological factors
The brain secretes certain special chemicals when it is in a dangerous situation. Among them, neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine influence the appearance of anxiety. There are some genetic factors that make children more likely to exaggerate this response to some situations that can be considered socially or psychologically dangerous.
- Family factors
Children are very influenced by the environment. So much so, that many times anxiety in parents ends up affecting children. Therefore, this can be one of the causes of childhood anxiety.
- Environmental factors
The traumatic experiences (such as divorces, illness or the death of a relative) can trigger the appearance of an anxiety disorder in children.
Types of child anxiety
In the same way as in anxiety in adults, there are different types of childhood anxiety .
1. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
In these cases, childhood anxiety can be identified by the excessive worries that children suffer. In addition, children with GAD tend to be very hard on themselves and strive with all their might to achieve perfection.
2. Panic disorder
This type of childhood anxiety is characterized by continuous episodes of panic. These anxiety attacks in children present themselves in unexpected ways. So much so that the little ones end up worrying about these attacks and even becoming obsessed with them.
3. Separation anxiety disorder
One of the most common types of childhood anxiety is a separation anxiety disorder. In these cases, children experience anxiety when they lose sight of their parents. This reaction can be normal when the little ones are very young, but it becomes a problem when it is prolonged in age.
4. Social phobia or social anxiety
The anxiety in children can also occur because of the fear of certain social activities. So much so, that the most common of this childhood anxiety is to suffer it on certain school occasions (such as going out to the blackboard or starting a conversation with a classmate). This type of anxiety in children can affect their development and children’s relationships.
5. Selective mutism
When children refuse to talk in certain situations, so much so that it interferes with their school activities and making friends, we can say that it is child anxiety. Children who suffer from selective mutism end up being immobile and expressionless at times where they are expected to talk to others.
6. Specific phobias
We speak of a specific phobia when children experience an irrational fear of a situation, a living being or an object. Child anxiety in these cases appears when they try to avoid certain situations or things they fear.
What to do if your child suffers from childhood anxiety?
When a baby cries, its parents know that it is likely hungry, tired, sick, or some other more easily identifiable cause. As the child grows, parents have more difficulty identifying the cause of their worries, insomnia or discomfort. When a child reaches elementary school age, a parent may find their child clinging to them, tense, or withdrawn. Instead of being relaxed and being able to play with other children, a child may appear irritable or unhappy.
As a parent, if you are concerned if something is a normal reaction or a childhood anxiety disorder, it is recommended to consult a psychologist. If your child really needs professional help, the psychologist will help him understand what happens in his body when he becomes anxious, become aware of his thoughts and behaviors, and will teach him how to challenge his worries and apply strategies to better cope with situations. and feel comfortable again. The sooner a child receives help, the faster they can regain their sense of well-being. No child should go through life feeling stressed, worried and anxious without access to help to cope.