What is anxiety?
Stress is when children are worried or uncomfortable about something. In small doses, stress can be helpful, such as the stress children feel when they learn to ride a bike or how to swim. Anxiety, on the other hand, is when these worries interfere with their everyday lives and stop them from having fun or doing new things.
Children with anxiety symptoms have uncontrolled, negative thoughts and reactions to things that don’t bother most kids.
What causes anxiety symptoms?
Between 20-65% of kids with an anxiety disorder have a close relative with anxiety symptoms which suggests that it may be inherited.
There are a variety of things that can cause anxiety symptoms in children.
Children with certain diagnoses like autism and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) tend to have problems with anxiety.
Physical disorders such as an overactive thyroid, low blood sugar or frequent blood sugar swings can show up as anxiety symptoms.
Medications such as the stimulants used to treat ADHD, thyroid medications and caffeine can cause anxiety symptoms.
Anxious overprotective parenting, as well as overly critical parenting styles, affect the way kids approach life and may cause children to have anxiety symptoms.
The way parents deal with stress and challenges sets the example for how their children will deal with them.
Children learn from what they see their parents doing not by what their parents say. For instance, if a mom is afraid of spiders, her child is more likely to be afraid of spiders. If a mother with social anxiety copes with it by avoiding people, her child will learn to avoid people.
Chronic stress can also lead to anxiety symptoms.
Chronic stressors include:
- A diet lacking in essential nutrients like essential fatty acids, lean proteins, probiotics, vitamins, and minerals.
- Poor sleep. Either not enough sleep or interrupted poor quality sleep.
- Lack of physical exercise
- Not enough time in nature
- Too much screen time.
- Lack of good quality interactions with people who love and care for them.
- Social challenges like a child being bullied at home or at school, divorce, the death of a parent and physical and emotional abuse.
- Postpartum depression in one or both parents can cause anxiety symptoms and behavioral problems in babies and older children.
How will you know your baby or child has anxiety symptoms?
Babies with stress and anxiety symptoms :
- Cry a lot.
- Are fussy, irritable and difficult to calm down
- May have a poor appetite
- Have problems with sleeping.
- May lose developmental milestones.
Toddlers and preschoolers suffering from too much stress/anxiety:
- Are very irritable.
- Throw lots of temper tantrums
- Show physical violence like kicking and pushing
- Have problems with sleeping.
- Have nightmares and night terrors
- Complain of stomach aches frequently.
- Stop being able to do things they could do before and may lose some developmental milestones.
School-aged children and teenagers with anxiety symptoms may have:
- Disrupted sleep: they either can’t fall asleep or sleep restlessly. Their poor sleep then increases the anxiety they feel.
- Physical complaints like headaches, stomach aches, and fatigue
- Defiant behavior.
- Temper tantrums
- They can’t let go easily and enjoy things as they happen.
- They’re always on alert for danger and threats and feel unsafe.
- They seem to be afraid of everything.
- They focus mostly on their mistakes rather than their successes
- They have all or nothing thinking. Things are black or white, right or wrong. They don’t see any grey areas.
- They have separation anxiety.
If your baby or child is showing anxiety symptoms don’t despair. Knowing that your baby or child feels anxious gives you the ability to deal with them in ways that will help them relax, learn new habits of thinking and behaving, and, overcome their anxiety naturally.
Stay tuned for next weeks blog on helping your baby and child handle anxiety symptoms naturally.
If you have any comments or questions please post them below.
Have a happy, healthy day.