When does anxiety in children become a medical concern?
You may notice that your child is a worrier. When you schedule a babysitter, your kid has prepared a list of interview questions to ask the sitter before being ok with it. When you're 5 minutes late to picking them up, they're in tears. They need to walk through any potential problems and come up with five solutions whenever faced with a new situation. You're happy to help! But when is it too much?
Anxiety is a concern when it gets in the way of "typical" functioning.
While some kids are more prone to worries than others, anxiety becomes a concern when it impacts their day-to-day functioning. So, instead of being in tears that you're five minutes late, they've had a huge blow-up and are waiting for you in the principal's office. Or, walking in to school on the first day, they're paralyzed and can't move from your side. They have trouble maintaining friendships. They consistently experience stomachaches and headaches, due to their ongoing stress.
When to consult with your pediatrician:
Stomachaches and headaches, while oftentimes linked to anxiety disorders, need to be checked out by the pediatrician to ensure there are no other medical causes to treat.
Also make sure to talk with the pediatrician about certain events that seem to trigger these big responses. Does your child react this way to all new situations, or only some? Is there a low level of stress throughout the day, or does your child seem only impacted by, say, attending swim lessons? This will help your pediatrician explore if the anxiety is generalized or if it is tied to certain events, which may change treatment recommendations.
Your doctor may recommend counseling.
Meeting with an anxiety or anger management specialist, depending on how anxiety presents or looks in your child, may be a good next step. The counselor can assess for the level of anxiety, and create a coping plan to help manage these anxious symptoms.
Consider other symptoms:
I specialize in anxiety and anger management because anger and conduct disorders (often misdiagnosed) are so closely tied to stress responses in kids and teens. So if you’re seeing a ton of non-compliance, angry/aggressive behaviors, disrespectfulness, or tantrums, it’s important to bring these up with your pediatrician as well.
This post was originally published on June 25, 2017 and has been edited.
Curious to hear more? Kelsey Torgerson specializes in anxiety and anger management for pre-schoolers, elementary schoolers, middle schoolers, teens, and college students. She provides cognitive behavioral therapy through her Clayton office. Families come from University City, Ladue, Creve Couer, Town and Country, Brentwood, and surrounding St. Louis areas. Reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org or you can set up a free phone consult right here.