Signs of Stress & Anxiety in Children

Anxiety in Children

Signs of Stress & Anxiety in Children

A wide variety of signs and symptoms may indicate that a child is experiencing stress or anxiety.

The following is a list of some common indicators, but not an exhaustive list:

* Fidgeting

* Increased irritability

* Restlessness, fidgets, restless sleep problems (e.g. night sweats)

* Apparent loss of appetite

* Difficulty/refusal to attend a school or not doing homework or schoolwork consistently, “Just give me the test and I’ll

pass it” syndrome. This boy, 8 years old, had no problem with other academic work at times when he knew he was

Signs of Stress & Anxiety in Children

stressed. He passed the test, but did not turn in his homework that day – consequently losing marks on that portion

of his test. This pattern kept repeating throughout the year.

* Changes in interests and/or behavior

* Declining grades or school attendance, or increased absences due to illness/injury

* Increased aggressive behavior (e.g. hitting, kicking, biting), usually towards peers/teachers; increased verbal

aggression; refusal to go outside when outside is the only way out of the situation. A child may seem unusually

hostile and mean just because he doesn’t know how to deal with his anxiety and stress more constructively.

Signs of Stress & Anxiety in Children

* Increased over-activity, over-focus on video games or other hobbies, or hyperactivity

* Sleep disturbed by unusual dreams and/or nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep talking

* Expressing fear about going to school, fear of a particular class or teacher, fear of a bully or other specific children.

Children may complain about headaches and stomachaches from early morning onwards but this is not always

accurate. They may be having nightmares and/or bad dreams which are waking them up at night.

* Recurring, persistent stomach aches/headaches, other pains in various parts of the body, seemingly without cause.

* Changes in eating habits (e.g. child may eat more when he/she is stressed/anxious)

Signs of Stress & Anxiety in Children

* Persistent sore throats and colds that last a long time. In some cases, this is because the child has been run down

from being under stress for a long period.

* Recurring, persistent infections (particularly of the ear, nose, and throat)

* Change of friends or change of school

* Difficulty concentrating at school or inability to do homework consistently. Students may also have difficulty

learning difficult subjects which is unusual if they are normally ahead of their peers in terms of academic ability.

A child who is failing an exam may go on to pass it despite giving him less than adequate preparation for the exam.

* Changes in playing habits, including more involvement in video games or excessive card playing. If the child is

involved with sports/activities that are scheduled, coaches may notice that the child has trouble keeping to the


Signs of Stress & Anxiety in Children

* “Sulking” behavior, negative attitude

bed; the child may sleep with parents or other family members if he/she is not used to doing so; the child may be having

nightmares and/or bad dreams which are waking him up at night)

* Acting unusually quiet and detached (e.g. child may be more withdrawn, less spontaneous, less friendly)

* Refusing to do normal things or playing with toys in unusual ways (e.g. refusing to play along with what others are

doing, trying to do something with toy cars that doesn’t make any sense, being overly competitive)

* Change of friends or change of school

* Poor social skills
Several agencies provide information on child anxiety.

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