Anxiety and Anger: Differences for Boys and Girls

How differently does anxiety manifest itself in girls versus boys? What accounts for such differences?

This May, I hosted a #HealthAMA ("ask me anything") allowing people to ask me any questions on temper tantrums and anger management for kids. You can find all the questions right here, and this summer I've pulled a few to expand on.

Gender differences in anger.

Based on my experience, I often see more boys with anxiety brought in for "anger management" than girls, though both boys and girls can express their anxiety in this way. Speaking in very broad strokes, a lot of times girls are very quickly corrected for temper tantrums, and boys are usually permitted to a little more.

Parents model the behaviors...

A lot of times, the way we show our anxiety is based on what is modeled for us, so for kids who experience anxiety and have anxious parents, they might model how their parent expresses that anxiety. Your dad yells? You probably will, too. Your mom gets really tearful? That might be more likely for you.

...but only sometimes.

Of course, sometimes boys and girls are brought in because their anxiety is so different than how their parents express it. (More info on that right here:  Is Your Child Anxious, or Just Bratty?)

The majority of the kiddos I see for anxiety have parents with anxiety as well, but sometimes those parents with anxiety wonder why their little boy is so shy, or why their little girl has such huge tantrums, not recognizing that same underlying anxiety.

Ultimately, I recommend the same interventions for boys and for girls.

And that includes anxiety management tools such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and identifying their emotions. Sometimes we'll integrate play therapy interventions, art therapy strategies, play-doh. games, and even singing. Regardless of how we get the information in, we're teaching your child how to manage their emotions and feel a little bit more in control - of their anxiety.

Curious to hear more? Are you wondering if anxiety is underneath your little boy's huge anger? Thinking that your little girl is destroying her toys because that stress just got to be a little too big? Kelsey Torgerson specializes in anxiety and anger management for kids, stress for teens, and perfectionism in college students. You can reach her at kelsey@compassionatecounselingstl.com

She works in Clayton, MO and serves families throughout St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Ladue, Town and Country, Webster Groves, Creve Couer, Kirkwood, Richmond Heights, and Brentwood.