What are symptoms of anxiety disorders in children?

Anxiety may manifest itself in a variety of different ways with different symptoms, depending on the anxiety disorder. If you believe that your child may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, it is important to contact a behavioral health expert.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) lists symptoms by type of anxiety.

Symptoms of separation anxiety include the following:

  • constant thoughts and intense fears about the safety of parents and caretakers
  • refusing to go to school
  • frequent stomachaches and other physical complaints
  • extreme worries about sleeping away from home
  • being overly clingy
  • panic or tantrums at times of separation from parents
  • trouble sleeping or nightmares

Symptoms of phobia include the following:

  • extreme fear about a specific thing or situation (dogs, insects or needles, for example)
  • fears cause significant distress and interfere with usual activities

Symptoms of social anxiety include the following:

  • fears of meeting or talking to people
  • avoidance of social situations
  • few friends outside the family

Other symptoms of anxious children include the following:

  • many worries about things before they happen
  • constant worries or concerns about family, school, friends or activities
  • repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or actions (compulsions)
  • fears of embarrassment or making mistakes
  • low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence
Dr. Michael J. Mufson, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Childhood is, by nature, marked by certain fears—of monsters, of the dark, of being left with a new babysitter, of starting school, and so on. As children get older they outgrow these fears and may develop new ones, like the fear of failing a test or of being embarrassed when called on in class. But apart from these normal developmental fears, many also suffer from anxiety disorders—up to 25 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

At one time, children with persistent and significant fear of social situations were said to have either avoidant disorder of childhood or adolescence—a kind of personality disorder—or overanxious disorder of childhood. Later, experts in the field of psychology recognized that the symptoms of avoidant disorder of childhood or adolescence were actually those of social phobia, and the symptoms of overanxious disorder were the same as those of generalized anxiety disorder. Currently, one growing issue in psychology is the labeling of children and teens with behavioral difficulties that stem from Asperger's syndrome as socially avoidant.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.