We live in a time when anxiety levels are higher than ever. Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults, or nearly one fifth of the population, every year. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, a presidential election, and rising racial and political tensions, these numbers may be even higher. According to a CDC survey, during the height of the pandemic in June 2020, 31% of respondents reported anxiety and depression symptoms.
But adults aren’t the only ones affected by the tumultuous events of the past year. About 1 in 12 children in the U.S. struggle with diagnosed anxiety and depression—not to mention the thousands, if not millions, who are undiagnosed. A report published by the CDC found that the suicide rate among Americans 10-24 years old rose by 56 percent from 2007 to 2017.
Mental health disorders in children can manifest in a variety of ways and may not always show up the same way they do for adults. Because children are not as self-aware or adept at expressing their feelings as adults, it is important to know the signs of anxiety in children so that it can be addressed before it escalates.
- Sleep or appetite changes.Persistent or dramatic changes in sleep, appetite or weight are sometimes an indication of anxiety.
- Difficulty concentrating. Sometimes anxious children have difficulty concentrating on a specific task for a period of time.
- Low energy. A sudden drop in energy, interest, and desire to participate in social activities may be a symptom of an underlying anxiety disorder.
- Difficulty sleeping. Insomnia and difficulty staying asleep can indicate anxiety in children. If they are unable to relieve their anxiety during the day, it can keep them awake at night.
- Enlist the help of a third party. Sustained anxiety and untreated mental health issues can lead to headaches. If a child is experiencing headaches regularly, there may be an underlying mental health cause.
- Panic attacks. If a child is experiencing anxiety or panic attacks frequently, they likely have an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of these attacks include fast and shallow breathing, a fast heart rate, and dissociation.
- Heightened sensitivity.. An elevated sensitivity to lights, sounds, touch or smell as well as irritability could be pointing to an anxiety disorder.
- Digestive issues.. Our digestive systems are closely tied to our emotions, mood and mental health. Anxiety and other mental health issues can sometimes manifest as digestive problems.
- Constantly worrying.. If a child seems regularly worried or fixated on a certain fear, such as the fear of getting sick, this can indicate an anxiety disorder.
- Refusal to go to school or social events.. Often, children who experience social anxiety or another anxiety disorder will resist social or group situations, such as school or daycare.
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