Anxiety checklist: How do I know if my child has an anxiety problem?

Anxiety in adults vs anxiety in children

Anxiety seems to be an adult problem. People understand all the causes for anxiety in an adult: money, work conditions, relationships with family members, an increasingly uncertain future, etc. Even if each person deals those issues differently, most adults can empathize with an adult friend who talks about his or her anxiety.

From the outside observer’s point of view, anxiety in adults may not differ from sadness, pessimism or depression.

Anxiety in children is quite different in one major aspect: children do not talk about their anxiety. This is not a word that belongs to their world and they generally do not know that they suffer from anxiety.

Normal anxiety in children vs clinical anxiety

Children experience various states of anxiety from the moment they are born, due to lack of experience and lack of communication. Sometimes it is easy to tell if a child is anxious by their crying and clingy behaviors but, generally, a child’s anxiety is hard to recognize and differentiate from a temporary bad mood, pain, personality development or confrontation.

To make things more complicated, a child’s anxiety can be a response to an environmental situation where one, or both, of the parents are anxious themselves and therefore less able to acknowledge their child’s emotional state.

Some children hide their anxiety because it is too difficult for them to express it to others.

The feeling of anxiety is overbearing and frightening, particularly if your parents do not acknowledge it or talk about it. The same major feelings defining anxiety are identical in children and adults:

  • constant and unreasoned fear,
  • feeling of loneliness,
  • sadness,
  • feeling of lack of power, and
  • associated psychosomatic pains, such as: headache, digestive problems.

Tantrums and Defiant Behavior

Some, if not most, children turn their anxiety into angry tantrums or defiant behaviors. Parents often respond with disapproval and discipline the child, thus entering into a vicious cycle which makes everyone more and more miserable and adds to the child’s anxiety.

Anxiety is a severe threat for health and research has demonstrated that it worsens with time, if the person is not helped. It is important to look for signs of anxiety in order to be able to help.

The Checklist

The following checklist can help you observe your child and recognize anxiety. If you recognize with certainty at least five of these traits, you need to help your child :

  • Pessimism and negative thinking patterns, such as imagining the worst
    (E.g. Dad is going to have a car accident; my school peers are going to hurt me)
  • Constant worry about things that might happen or have happened
  • Over-exaggerating the negatives
    (E.g. This bad thing ALWAYS happens to me)
  • Rigidity and inflexibility, self-criticism, guilty thoughts, etc.
    (E.g. I will never be able to do that, I will never know how to…)
  • Anger
  • Aggression
    (This is sometimes discreet, like quietly pushing a younger sibling or breaking someone’s property on purpose.)
  • Restlessness, irritability, tantrums
  • Opposition and defiance
  • Crying
  • Physical complaints such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding things or places or refusing to do things or go places
  • Sleeping difficulties, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, nightmares, or night terror
  • Perfectionism
    (E.g. tearing off a drawing to redo it, or scratching out a line or a word till it can’t be seen before rewriting it)
  • Excessive clinginess and separation anxiety (can look like acting out to force the parent to cancel an appointment to stay home)
  • Procrastination
    (E.g. will start later, will finish in a moment…)
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Withdrawal from activities and family interactions
  • Eating disturbances
    (E.g. hides to eat snacks, shows sudden aversions to some foods…)

Anxious children are always very demanding and can become very emotional if things don’t go their way. Parents can become confused about how firm they need to be with limits and if they should give in to the child to avoid emotional outbursts.

Do not feel bad

Do not feel guilty about not having put the signs together before now.

Children do their best at hiding their anxiety, and being the parent of a child with anxiety, you probably suffer from anxiety yourself.

We never can change yesterday, today is about learning how to change tomorrow, let’s get at it.

How to help your child overcome anxiety stress and fear

About Sensory Enrichment Therapy

Clinical Studies Validate Sensory Enrichment Therapy as an Effective Autism Treatment

Results showed that after 6 months of therapy 42% of the children in the sensory enrichment group achieved clinically significant improvement, compared to only 7% of the children in the standard care group.

  1. Woo, C., & Leon, M. (2013). Environmental enrichment as an effective treatment for autism: A randomized controlled trial. Behavioral Neuroscience, 487-497.
  2. Woo, C., Donnelly, J., Steinberg-Epstein, R., & Leon, M. (2015). Environmental enrichment as a therapy for autism: A clinical trial replication and extension. Behavioral Neuroscience, 412-422.

42% of children with autism had a clinically significant improvement

Click here for more information about the clinical trials

  • Brain Plasticity

    Studies have shown that the brain has the ability to change and develop.

  • Sensory Enrichment Therapy

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  • Mendability

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    This is an autism therapy with clinically proven results, personalized to fit within your schedule – officially accredited by The Joint Commission.

The results are:

  • A child who initiates more natural conversations
  • A child who is more comfortable in his own skin and the world around him
  • A child who can learn more confidently
  • More calm, more focus, more engagement
  • Deeper, less interrupted sleep
  • More interest in varied foods
  • Easier to cope with change and to transition

Mendability - Sensory Enrichment Therapy for Autism - Accredited by the Joint Commission

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See how other individuals similar to you progressed on the Mendability Sensory Enrichment program.

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