Anxiety Signs & Symptoms

What is Anxiety?

Understanding Anxiety Disorders

Just like adults, children and adolescents experience stressful situations in life; however some young people have such intense feelings of anxiety that they are unable to function properly. The presence of an anxiety disorder can impact how a young person feels and behaves on a daily basis. Furthermore, if anxiety disorders are not properly treated the distressing symptoms can be long-lasting, often leading to a number of negative consequences, including poor school performance, lack of appropriate social skills, conflicts at home, and the possible development of substance abuse.

Though anxiety disorders can be extremely disruptive in a young person’s life, fortunately, these problems can be treated — and the sooner treatment is sought, the higher the chance that further difficulties can be prevented.


Statistics on PDD

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions. These disorders are known to affect individuals of all ages and from all backgrounds. More specifically, it is estimated that 8% of adolescents in the United States have an anxiety disorder.

Causes and Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

No one knows for sure what causes the manifestation of an anxiety disorder. However, a majority of scientists believe that there is a genetic component as well contributions from certain life experiences that can lead to the development of anxiety. Consider the following:

Genetic: Many years of research has demonstrated that anxiety disorders tend to run in families. This means that children or adolescents who have a close relative with an anxiety disorder are more likely to develop anxiety than are others without such family history.

Environmental: Mental health professionals have also recognized the role that environmental factors play in the development of mental health disorders such as anxiety. For example, a child who experiences a traumatic event or grows up in a stressful home environment is more likely to develop anxiety.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • Exposure to chronic stress, violence, and/or trauma
  • Lack of effective coping skills
  • Family history of anxiety or other mental health disorders
  • Inadequate support system
  • Experiencing abrupt life changes
  • Familial conflicts

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder

The signs and symptoms of anxiety in children and adolescents are going to vary depending upon the specific anxiety disorder a child is struggling with. Also, although similar, the symptoms of anxiety disorders in young persons may be different than those present in adults. Furthermore, presenting symptoms will also depend upon each child’s individual characteristics. Some of the most common signs and symptoms may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Quick to anger
  • Bed wetting
  • Avoidance of certain activities
  • Extreme dependence or clinginess
  • Difficulty making friends
  • Profound shyness
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Extreme resistance to change
  • Procrastination
  • Exaggerated startle response

Physical symptoms:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Trembling hands
  • Muscle tension
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Extreme fatigue

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Constant worrying about future events
  • Difficulties with concentration
  • Racing thoughts
  • Detachment from one’s surroundings
  • Impaired memory
  • Cyclical thinking
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Ritualistic thinking
  • Fleeting ideas
  • Depersonalization

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Frequent feelings of panic and fear
  • Fear of embarrassment or of making mistakes
  • Depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Fear of dying or losing control
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Unpredictable mood
  • Ongoing nervousness


Effects of Anxiety

With proper treatment and support, anxiety disorders in children and adolescents can be effectively managed. Unfortunately, many do not get the treatment they need, and continue to struggle with a number of long-term consequences. Some of the most common effects of anxiety in children and adolescents include:

  • Poor school performance
  • Behavioral problems
  • Low self-esteem and sense of self-worth
  • Relationship difficulties among family and friends
  • Depression
  • Physical problems including headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Conflict within the family
  • Suicidal ideations and attempts


Anxiety and Co-Occurring Disorders

It is very common for a child or adolescent with an anxiety disorder to struggle with an additional mental health disorder. The following conditions are often diagnosed in individuals who have anxiety disorders:

  • Additional anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Phobias
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Thank you for putting your heart and soul into helping these kids. Our son is able to manage his anxiety and is excelling again in school. Thank You!

– Anonymous Parent