As we grow up we all have to get use to a lot of new situations. Having some anxiety is a normal part of the process. But how do you know when the anxiety you or your child is feeling is beyond what is a normal? Here are some of the signs to look for:
- Out of character behaviors: Your usually compliant child is giving you a hard time and having tantrums. They may suddenly not be acting their age, not want to go on play dates or have difficulty leaving you. Adults may suddenly begin taking back roads instead of getting on the highway. Some adults stop going to parties or getting together with friends because they are socially anxious.
- Asking a lot of “What if” questions: This might be around things like getting picked up from school, where you will be during the day, about potential illness or any number of topics. Most adults think “what if” in their heads more than they ask others.
- Avoidance: Sudden, strong avoidance to situations that were formerly not an issue. Your child may not want to go over to a friend’s house who has a dog (specific phobia) or go upstairs by themselves. They may not want to go on sleepovers anymore. Children might fear that something bad might happen to you while they are at school, or have just so much anxiety they feel they can’t cope in the school setting. Adults may avoid public places because of fears of contamination, feeling claustrophobic or fear a panic attack coming on.
- Reassurance seeking: Incessant and insatiable need for reassurance and/or repeated explanations. Your reassurance to your child never seems to be enough. Adults typically go to professionals for reassurance, i.e. doctors, ER, internists.
- Frequent physical complaints: Children begin complaining of nausea, stomach aches, headaches, feeling on edge, or other aches or pains. These feelings may seem to occur Sunday nights, before school on Monday or after a vacation. Adults may become hyper-vigilant about their bodies, noticing any change in heart beat, breathing, pulse, or lumps.
- Sleep problems: Your child now wants you to be in their room with them or lay with them until they fall asleep. They may crawl into bed with you in the middle of the night. Some children have a difficult time falling asleep because their mind is just spinning or they have to perform certain rituals before going to bed. They may experience insomnia, nightmares and frequent awakening, followed by exhaustion and drowsiness during the day. Adults may suffer from insomnia because they just can’t shut their mind off. They may wake up a lot in the middle of the night with worries and have difficulty falling back asleep.
- Decline in attention, concentration and organization: A lot of energy can be spent worrying about things. This can be distracting and cause children and adults to appear that they are daydreaming. Focusing and concentrating on assignments and lectures may become difficult and children’s grades may slip. Adults may have difficulty at work focusing or concentrating. Others may comment that they don’t think they are listening to them.
- Perfectionism: Your child has to have things perfect. Maybe it is the way they write their letters, how they fold their paper, or any number of things. At school they may frequently erase things until they get it “just right.” You may find yourself cleaning excessively, checking and rechecking things, doing tasks over and over again and becoming frustrated.
Adults and parents should consult with a mental health professional if the anxiety is:
- Disproportion: The anxiety is excessive and unreasonable
- Disruption: Interferes with you or your child’s ability to function normally
- Distress: You or your child is distraught and easily upset.
- Duration: Level of anxiety has occurred for a least one month
As always, if you have any questions or need some help let me know!