For years we struggled trying to figure out why my daughter worried so much. And why she had so many stomach aches and headaches too. Then, when it became such a big factor that it interfered with her getting to school, we had to take action.
Childhood anxiety is a challenge but it can be manageable with support and sometimes medications too. Here’s part 2 in my childhood anxiety series – on Childhood Anxiety Symptoms.
A Bit About Our Daughter
We have a daughter with Generalized anxiety disorder. I started talking about her anxiety disorder several years ago when I wrote a piece for Today’s Parent. You can read that here in Today’s Parent anxiety piece.
When Payton was about 7 or 8 she was first officially diagnosed, but oddball things had been happening since she was 6. In fact the onset of full time school can bring on anxiety for many children. Now Payton is 13. She copes well sometimes and is learning new strategies over time. What works for us well is that my daughter is extremely verbal, in two languages, so she’s able to tell us what’s happening with words often. The thing I have always loved about that is that it makes my job a bit easier. If she lets me know something is wrong and provides me with some of the symptoms or feelings, then I can help or plug in the help she needs.
Earlier this month I posted part 1: Five Things I Know About Childhood Anxiety
This is part 2 of my childhood anxiety series.
Becoming a Childhood Anxiety Detective:
Sometimes when you are parenting and an illness comes up you have to be a bit of a detective to figure out what is happening. I remember feeling that way from the start with my babies. They would drop tiny clues about their ailments and illnesses even before they could talk.
Most parents get good at reading the clues. A fever. lethargy and sore throat plus tugging on the ear often equalled ear infection. A fever and no lethargy, for my one daughter was almost always just a simple bug that would easily go away. Runny nose equalled a cold and so on. Nausea almost always is an easy one because kids tend to vomit whenever and wherever that hits.
Anxiety is a bit harder to decode. At least it was for me. Maybe, if some of you read this, and learn about our experience this might help. At least I hope it does.
How did I know my daughter had anxiety? The answer is I didn’t for a really long time. I had no idea what to label what she was feeling because the symptoms were physical. I ended up taking her to the doctor repeatedly for stomach aches and constipation and headaches and over and over she’d miss school due to some physical complaint.
We were in the emergency room with her stomach aches a few times when she was six and seven. She’d get extremely constipated. Childhood anxiety symptoms are perplexing because they don’t often make sense. Now I know that stomach upsets and constipation can be a symptom of anxiety in children.
Back then doctors ran X-rays and we came up always sort of empty handed. There didn’t seem to be a reason for the stomach pain. They questioned her about bullying and whether that could be the issue. For several months, maybe even years, we assumed stomach aches and then head aches were bullying related. At some point most kids run into and experience bullies. Our daughter had experienced bullies too. But even when she was put on a laxative to fix some of the stomach pain, and even as we dealt with the bullies, she was still not getting better.
So what were we missing and what were we seeing? It wasn’t until several years in with her anxiety that we realized after reading and therapy and assessments mounted up, that anxiety comes with pronounced physical symptoms. Essentially worry can make you sick.
Ten Childhood Anxiety Symptoms:
1. racing heart
2. stomach ache
3. head ache
4. breathing faster
7. sleep issues (can look like inability to sleep and can also look like too much sleep. My daughter is super exhausted at end of school and she falls asleep extremely early every night.)
8. joint pain
9. difficulty concentrating.
10. shaking, dizziness.
Does your Child Have These Symptoms Way Too Often?
Does your child have childhood anxiety symptoms? I certainly am no doctor or therapist. But if they have many of these, or any of these, and they interfere with daily living then tell your family doctor. Children’s mental health issues are challenging but teaching them coping strategies equals more tools to deal with anxiety as adults.
Here’s a book that we found helped.
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