Mental illness in children can be hard to recognize, especially with young children. Anxiety is a mental illness that can be overlooked in children, because anxiety can look very different in children than it does in adults. The biggest difference is that most adults are able to express and identify their anxiety, while young children often lack the vocabulary, knowledge, and coping skills to identify the feelings that they are experiencing.
Some of the most common anxiety disorders that affect children are Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia), and Selective Mutism.
There are many reasons that children experience anxiety. Some examples include significant life changing situations, learned behavior, genetics, and/or brain chemistry.
A child who has anxiety may display symptoms that could include a child’s flight or fight system becoming overactive even though an adult may not believe the behavior is warranted. Their bodies may become shaky and/or they may experience shortness of breath. A child who is experiencing anxiety may act scared or upset, refuse to try things, or will not verbally communicate with adults or peers.
The most common way that anxiety is treated is with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT helps the child learn coping skills and teaches parents how to identify the triggers in order to help and support the child experiencing anxiety. The learned skills will help parents with responding and reducing their child’s anxiety in a timely manner. The sooner that the child is able to get support and learn coping skills for their anxiety, the sooner a child will be able to thrive and be able to just be a kid again.
Here are some helpful resources about anxiety in children:
By: Carmen Dorton – Mental Health Assistant
And Marissa Palacios-Ontiveros, LMSW, MBA – Mental Health Specialist
Carmen Dorton became a Mental Health Assistant at Rainbows United in November of 2019. Marissa Palacios-Ontiveros, LMSW, MBA became a Mental Health Specialist at Rainbows United in August of 2018. Both staff participate in a partnership between Rainbows’ Early Childhood Mental Health program and TOP (The Opportunity Project) Early Learning Centers where Rainbows provides classroom consultation services for teachers and individual therapeutic services to children and their families.