Signs of anxiety in children

Fearful or anxious behaviour is common in children, especially when they are faced with new experiences or come across different situations. But if a child is experiencing an anxiety disorder, it can cause extreme fear and worry, and changes in a child’s behaviour, sleep, eating or mood.

A child might need some extra support if:

  • They seem overly anxious than other children of a similar age
  • Their anxiety stops them from taking part in social or school activities
  • What they are worrying about seems out of proportion to the issues in their life
  • Their anxiety affects their ability to do things their peers can easily do
  • They can also appear really irritable

How anxiety may affect a child

As well as impacting their everyday behaviour, anxiety means a child may perceive the fear or danger they’re worried about to be much greater than it is. Thinking about the situation makes them more worried and tense as they may overestimate danger.

Often children who experience anxiety may come up with their own strategies to try and manage distressing situations; this often involves them trying to avoid the situation or having a parent or other adult deal with it for them.

This may work in the short-term, but avoiding the fearful situation usually only makes it worse because next time the worries are still there. As a result, they can find it harder to cope with everyday stresses at home, school and in social settings.



Signs of anxiety in children

Anxiety can result in physical symptoms such as sleeplessness, diarrhoea, stomach aches and headaches; a child may also be irritable, find it difficult to concentrate and feel overly tired.

A child with anxiety difficulties may seek reassurance often, get others to do the things they are worried about, avoid situations they are scared about, have an unusual amount of fears and worries and get upset easily.

You may also notice your child:

  • Gets you to help them with tasks they can do themselves
  • Clings to you
  • Avoids getting ready for school
  • Won’t go to sleep without a parent or other adult
  • Continually asks ‘will you tell them for me’ or ‘please do it for me?’
  • Worries a lot about doing things right
  • Prefers to watch others instead of doing it themselves
  • Is scared of being alone, germs, tests, dogs and the dark
  • Complains a lot about being picked on
  • Cries over small things
  • Always sees the dangerous or negative side of things

If you are noticing these signs and they are starting to get in the way of your child enjoying life, it may be beneficial to seek professional help.



3 ways to help a child with anxiety

  1. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings, listen and let them know you understand, love and accept them. A caring relationship can help build your child’s inner strength.
  2. Build resilience so they do not give up or avoid what they’re afraid of, help them to take small positive steps forward. Try to be patient and remember they aren’t trying to make life hard for you on purpose.
  3. Seek a therapist that is trained in helping children deal with anxiety and can give you advice and strategies to help support your child through this difficult time.


Please contact us on 07 3009 0338 and we’ll arrange a free 15-minute no-obligation phone call with our director Dr Emily O’Leary. She’ll be able to discuss treatment options for your child so they can enjoy living an active and fun life again.



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