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Become Familiar with the Unique Signs of Pediatric Anxiety


Become Familiar with the Unique Signs of Pediatric Anxiety


If you are only watching out for ‘red flag behaviors’ that are pervasive, intense and irrational fears, you could miss the subtle or ’loud,’ but unique hints that that indicate anxiety in children. Even proactive parents can err when it comes to spotting anxiety signs. This is because some of these are not readily recognizable, being uncommon. This underscores the value of counseling or therapy in the hands of a professional.

Recognizing the symptoms of anxiety in children is critical. This precedes consulting with a qualified counselor or therapist for the precise diagnosis of the condition and its treatment. Unfortunately, children do not see the world the way adults do. Confronted with emotions they cannot comprehend or stimuli (sounds, visuals, etc.) that they associate with a trauma or unhappy event, they are easily confused and afraid. They can even fear harmless things – ‘daddy long legs,’ nocturnal sounds, even unusual-looking toys.

To be able to provide your child the right help, support and care they need, it is critical that you can spot anxiety early on. This means becoming familiar, not only with the common signs of anxiety in children, but the unusual symptoms as well.

The ‘Usual’ Signs

Part of the challenge in identifying the symptoms of the condition is the fact that “anxiety is not a single disorder.” There are more than a few types, which include Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder with and without Agoraphobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,
Separation Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. The experts also consider fears generated by substance and medicines as a separate type.

Hence, the condition “has hundreds, possibly thousands of symptoms,” which differ according to what the type of anxiety is. For example, GAD can trigger fear about almost anything, but they can have very definite fears when they have panic disorder or phobia. There is nothing unusual about separation anxiety among toddlers to preschool age, which they exhibit when you put them down or ask someone else to carry them. Social phobia can give them the jitters when they see strangers or when they are performing on stage for a preschool program. All these sound okay, but not when the manifestations are “intense, pervasive and illogical.”

Regardless of the long list of symptoms, experts agree on some common signs of anxiety in children. These manifestations are generally associated with the ‘fight or flight system’ – the response system that triggers and governs emotions and is regulated in turn by some sort of ‘switch,’ the neurotransmitters or brain chemicals. When it is not functioning well, the body reacts by having little power over anxiety-related fears and behaviors. It is designed to prepare your body for some action during emergency cases or when there is danger. The common signs of anxiety are generally the ones associated with the activation of this response – fast heartbeat, sweaty hands and feet, feverish feeling, ‘butterflies’ in your tummy, etc.

The ‘Atypical’ Signs

Just because your child’s manifestations do not appear in the list of common signs and symptoms does not necessarily indicate otherwise. Be reminded of the fact that there are hundreds of possibilities, even more. This means that not every possible indication can be listed in whatever research material you are using. What can guide you in determining if certain manifestations would pass as a sign of anxiety? A behavioral health professional.

There are five unusual signs of anxiety in children that are often missed, says Survival for All Age. These are 1) physical symptoms 2) school refusal 3) anger 4) avoidance of activities and 5) having rituals. These are missed because these are often misconstrued to mean something else. Another atypical sign is strong reactions to noise, dirt and clothes. Also, do not trivialize sleeplessness, picky eating, excessive shyness, clinginess, and repetitive behaviors.

Why do children manifest pronounced physical symptoms when they have anxiety? According to Calm Clinic, the different parts of the body react to the ‘fight or flight’ system. In particular, the brain hormone that causes you to be alert and responsive to dangers also causes your heartbeat fast and your muscles perform work faster and stronger. These prove the connection to the following organ systems: circulatory, nervous and sense organs, digestive system, muscular system, and reproductive.

Anxiety also has emotional symptoms that can be attributed to the changing levels of the brain chemicals that regulate moods and feelings. These may affect the cognitive or thought functions of your child. The known thought symptoms are frightening thoughts, outlandish notions, troubling concepts, and irrational ideas. But because these thoughts are not that easy to ascertain, watch out for symptoms that indicate any of these thoughts, such as frequent bad dreams, disorientation, confusion, distortion of reality, forgetfulness, and a sense of disinterestedness or detachment.

Behavioral and Illness Related Symptoms

Anxiety per se does not have clear behavioral symptoms. Gripped with a type of the condition, like social phobia, your child may manifest certain behaviors to avoid people and gatherings. Because of these behaviors, it is common for them to be labeled as naughty, misbehaved, clumsy, mischievous, etc. before diagnosis. The diagnosis is important as it marks the day when the behavior is understood, and they can have the chance to be free from anxiety through an appropriate treatment plan.

The condition can also cause insomnia in your child, fearing that a monster will appear from the shadows or from under the bed. They may not eat well, or ‘stress eat,’ to compensate or to help them forget their terror, resulting to weight gain or loss, low energy and weakened immune system. Their terror can be so excessive they will avoid social occasions and won’t participate in school activities. Growing up, they can be vulnerable to low self-esteem, eating disorders and self-harm. Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder usually perform repetitive behaviors, such as washing of hands or pacing back and forth.

Anxiety can similarly mimic symptoms that are characteristics of certain medical conditions. One too many children complain of upset stomach or headache when they do not want to do your bidding, such as sleep alone, be left in the school or eat their veggies. Some would even complain of fever, even though the doctor says he/she has no medical issue. “… feeling Itchy, fibromyalgia, increased, risk of infection, malaise, mucus, paralysis, peripheral neuropathy, shock, swelling, swollen glands/ swollen lymph nodes, and vomiting” are a few other common complaints, says Calm Clinic,

Read the “Unreadable Signs” with Counseling

Anxiety, the world’s leading emotional condition, has many types and hundreds, even thousands of possible manifestations. Becoming acquainted with all the possibilities isn’t a walk in the park, but you can do this along with a dependable partner, Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC.

Do not underestimate anxiety. Some of its forms – specific phobia, panic and OCD – can mean your child will live a difficult life. Some can have debilitating effects that can go on and on for a long time, if not for life, such as PTSD. The best way to defeat this ’joy snatcher’ is to bring your child to early treatment, which of course requires early recognition of symptoms and diagnosis.

Every child deserves to grow up and enjoy life in its purest form. “Anxious children often tend to be some of the most kind-hearted children…” They are born sweet and innocent. If they are not acting in their best behavior, it could be a silent plea for attention. Raise an anxious child well. Give them not only the necessary attention, but bring them too to CCS – Pinehurst, NC, so they can be helped by one of the independently contracted counselors or therapists. Call today to schedule your child’s first appointment.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Prime/Select, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

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Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

45 Dowd Circle Suite 5
PinehurstNC 28374

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Fayetteville, NC 28311