Anxiety in moderation is necessary for normal development. Brief fears about the dark, strangers or loud noises as well as fears about being separated from the family are very common for children and teens. It is because of anxiety that we work harder on projects, think twice before we say anything to our friends or feel excited about our first time on the roller coaster. Every anxious situation is an opportunity for a child and teen to learn how to manage his/her emotions appropriately.
Extensive or prolonged anxiety, or developmentally inappropriate anxiety (e.g. a 15 year old versus a 5 year old scared of the dark) however, can have a negative impact on a child’s emotional, social and physical development and is a cause for concern. Here are the most common signs of severe anxiety in children and teens that should be treated immediately:
Recurrent stomach aches, headaches, vomiting or nausea with no physical cause
Fever, with no physical cause
Intense fears about parental safety
Intense fears about death
Panic symptoms or tantrums when being separated from parents
Being overly clingy beyond what is age-appropriate
Nightmares, trouble falling or staying asleep
Avoiding certain people or location
Ruminating about mistakes
Fear of embarrassment or making a mistake
Low self-esteem and self-confidence
Engaging in compulsive actions (e.g. washing hands excessively, pacing, etc.)
Avoiding social situations
Severe anxiety is not something your child can just snap out of or grow out of. If your child has any of the above symptoms and they are concerning you, it is important to seek a consultation with a mental health professional. Early intervention is key to prevent long-term problems from developing.
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