Childhood Anxiety

Childhood Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in youth, affecting more than 10 percent of children and adolescents at some point in their development. Children with learning and attention issues may be even more likely than their peers to worry about school, social activities and change. Without treatment, childhood anxiety is likely to persist, negatively affecting a child’s social and family functioning and overall quality of life. Anxiety disorders increase the risk of adult disorders, including future anxiety as well as depression, substance use disorders and suicide.

Signs of Anxiety

Physical: –

  • Frequently complains of headaches or stomachaches, even though there’s no medical reason for them.
  • Refuses to eat snacks or lunch at school.
  • Restless, fidgety, hyperactive or distracted.
  • Starts to shake or sweat in intimidating situations.
  • Constantly tenses his muscles.
  • Has trouble falling or staying asleep.

Emotional: –

  • Cries often.
  • Acts extremely sensitive.
  • Becomes angry without any reason.
  • Afraid of making minor mistakes.
  • Has extreme test anxiety.
  • Has panic attacks (or is afraid of having panic attacks).
  • Has phobias and exaggerated fears.
  • Fear of learning and attention problems.
  • Worries about future.
  • Frequent nightmares about losing a parent or loved one.
  • Gets distracted from playing by his worries and fears.
  • Obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors (finger tapping, hand washing, etc.).


Behavioural: –

  • Avoids participating during class activities.
  • Remains silent or preoccupied when he’s expected to work with others.
  • Refuses to go to school.
  • Stays inside, alone, at lunch or recess.
  • Avoids social situations with peers after school or on weekends (extracurricular activities, birthday parties, etc.).
  • Refuses to speak to peers or strangers in stores, restaurants, etc.
  • Becomes emotional or angry when separating from parents or loved ones.
  • Constantly seeks approval from parents, teachers and friends.
  • Says “I can’t do it!” without a real reason.

Types of Anxiety

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is a condition in which a child becomes fearful and nervous when away from home or separated from a loved one usually a parent or other caregiver to whom the child is attached. Some children also develop physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches at the thought of being separated. The fear of separation causes great distress to the child and may interfere with the child’s normal activities such as going to school or playing with other children.

Symptoms: –
  • An unrealistic and lasting worry that something bad will happen to the parent or caregiver if the child leaves.
  • An unrealistic and lasting worry that something bad will happen to the child if he or she leaves the caregiver.
  • Refusal to go to school in order to stay with the caregiver
  • Refusal to go to sleep without the caregiver being nearby or to sleep away from home
  • Fear of being alone
  • Nightmares about being separated
  • Bed Wetting
  • Complaints of physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea or vomiting on school days.
  • Excessive crying, tantrums and social withdrawal 
Treatment: –

Psychotherapy is the main treatment approach for separation anxiety disorder. The focus of therapy is to help the child tolerate being separated from the caregiver without the separation causing distress or interfering with function. A type of therapy called cognitive behaviour therapy works to reshape the child’s thinking (cognition) so that the child’s behaviour becomes more appropriate. Family therapy also may help teach the family about the disorder and help family member’s better support the child during periods of anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications may be used to treat severe cases of separation anxiety disorder.


Social Anxiety Disorder

Children with social anxiety disorder feel symptoms of anxiety or fear in certain or all social situations, such as meeting new people, participate in co-curricular activities, answering a question in class. Doing everyday things in front of people such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public restroom also causes anxiety or fear. The person is afraid that he or she will be humiliated, judged, and rejected. Some children with the disorder do not have anxiety in social situations but have performance anxiety instead. They feel physical symptoms of anxiety in situations such as giving a speech, playing a sports game, or dancing or playing a musical instrument on stage.

Symptoms: –
  • Sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
  • Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
  • Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
  • Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
  • Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
  • Be very afraid that other people will judge them
  • Stay away from places where there are other people
Treatment: –

The first step to effective treatment is to have a diagnosis made by a Psychologist, Clinical psychologist or Psychiatrist. Social anxiety disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy medication or both.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry about a variety of events. It is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches, muscular tension, restlessness, heart palpitations, and stomach upset. Children and adolescents with GAD may worry excessively about their performance and competence at school or in sporting events, about personal safety and the safety of family members, or about natural disasters and future events.

The difference between normal feelings of anxiety and the presence of generalized anxiety disorder is that children with GAD worry more often and more intensely than other children in the same circumstances. Children with GAD tend to worry about the same things as their non-anxious peers but they do so in excess. These worries and associated symptoms cause significant distress and impair daily functioning. Children with GAD are often overly self-critical and avoid activities in which they feel that may not be able to perform perfectly. They also tend to seek frequent reassurance from caregivers, teachers, and others about their performance, although this reassurance only provides relief from their worries.

Treatment: –

Early identification and effective management can help reduce the severity of symptoms. Psychotherapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, are among the most researched and promising treatments for childhood anxiety. In certain instances, medication in combination with psychotherapy may also recommend for treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.

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Psychologist Jayesh K.G

Jayesh KG Consultant Psychologist & Remedial Educator

Jayesh K.G is an experienced and eminent Psychologist based in Thrissur and Kochi. He is currently working as Consultant Psychologist & Child Specialist at POSITIVE Psycho therapeutic Clinic, Thrissur. He worked as a Consultant Psychologist, Dept. of Child and Adolescent Guidance Clinic, Healing Minds-A clinic for mind wellness, Kochi. He is also leading the Department of Child and Adolescent Guidance Clinic at CHILD Development & Psychotherapy Clinic, Kodungallur and Olive Health Care, Vatanapalli.

Jayesh undertakes programs to increase awareness regarding mental health issues among the general population with the help of visual and print media.

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