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How to Spot Anxiety in Children

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

It's normal for children to feel worried or anxious from time to time. There are those significant moments in their lives where it is, to some degree, inevitable. Starting school or nursery, moving to a new area, meeting new people. However, out with such rational instances, when their anxiety is so significant that it is affecting them emotionally and physically, there is real cause for concern.

Childhood anxiety is one of the most significant mental health challenges of the 21st century. As one in five children will experience some kind of clinical level anxiety by the time they reach adolescence, and with 1 in 20 set to have anxiety, in some form, before leaving school, there can be no doubt over the challenge that is ahead. It certainly raises a lot of questions, such as what age does it commonly affect them, or how can we identify if they are suffering from anxiety. Well, according to researchers, we know the median age of onset is 11. As for signs of anxiety, that’s something of a challenge in and of itself.

Children may not recognize their own anxiety and often lack the maturity to explain their real or imagined stressful issues. So, without them directly communicating to you about their feelings, we should be aware that anxiety disorders reveal themselves in physical and psychological ways. How they manifest themselves can depend on the age of the child, and the type of anxiety disorder, and can be confusing for parents and caregivers. Below is a list of some indications that you can use, which may signal anxiety in your young person.

  • With toddlers and young children, parents may notice increased irritability, excessive crying, tantrums, as well as more difficulty self-soothing or self-regulating than you have come to expect of them.

  • Young children may exhibit regressive behaviors such as bed-wetting or excessive clinginess.

  • In all age groups, children with anxiety disorders may exhibit physical symptoms such as stomach and headaches, rapid breathing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, muscle aches, and tension and sleeping difficulties.

  • Psychological and behavioral symptoms include frequent reassurance-seeking, needing things done exactly the same way and in the same order (uncharacteristic rigidity), feeling irrationally threatened or overwhelmed by new experiences; avoiding any situation — school, people and places, events, social gatherings — which triggers or fuels their anxiety.

  • Hypervigilance means the child is on high alert and constantly monitoring their environment and keeping tabs on everything going on around them. Hypervigilant children often misinterpret innocuous cues as signs of danger. While surveilling the room is a useful talent for spies, for a child, it’s exhausting.

At oVRcome, our focus is supporting individuals who have anxiety and phobias which are affecting their quality of life. Collaborating with clinical psychologists, and utilizing virtual reality technology, the work we do is all informed by specialists in this field, and is then used to create programmes which can have an incredible impact on those who suffer from anxiety. As we continue to expand our range of support options, addressing anxiety in young people is the next stage of our work, and we will soon be releasing an eBook to do just that. “7 Tips to Calm Your Child’s Anxiety” will offer some actionable advice for those who are wishing to make a positive impact. Stay tuned to our website for it’s availability.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about anxiety in children and young people, we have a number of articles available on our blog. Why not have a read of our previous article, The anxious generation, where we take a look at 3 reasons why the current generation of children and young people are so anxious.

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