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Anxiety in Children: What you need to know

You may have heard the term anxiety thrown around in conversation, but what does anxiety look like in children? What qualifies for a diagnosis?

You may have some concerns regarding your child’s behavior and are looking for answers. Below, I will go over what you need to know about anxiety in children, including things to look out for and what steps to take if you have concerns.

Do you have questions about ADHD, see ADHD in Children: What you need to know. Are you concerned that your child is showing signs of autism, see Autism in Children: What you need to know.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is often referred to as an internalizing disorder because it mainly includes a person’s thoughts and feelings. Some degree of fears and worries are typical in children, but anxiety becomes concerning if and when it begins to get in the way of a child’s daily life. For instance, a child not being able to separate from a caregiver to engage in a game with peers, or being afraid of going to school. Below are a few examples of various types of anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety

Generalized anxiety can present as a fear or worry about the future or general bad things happening.

Specific Phobia

A specific phobia is characterized by a strong fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation (e.g,. heights, animals). It is common for preschool aged children to develop specific fears or phobias (e.g., fear of the dark) that will gradually go away on its own.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is when children have a difficult time separating from their caregivers, often causing crying or meltdowns. Separation anxiety is common in children aged 6 months old and should stop around age 2.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is a strong fear of social situations or a worry of being judged by others.


As noted, anxiety typically takes the form of a worry or fear though it can also cause children to become irritable. Other symptoms of anxiety can also include: anger, sleep difficulty, and physical symptoms (e.g., head or stomach aches and pains). See below for other signs of anxiety to look out for.

Steps to take if you are concerned your child may have anxiety:

1. Don’t wait! The US Preventive Services Taskforce recommends screening all children 8 to 18 for anxiety. Talk to your child’s doctor about your concerns and find a provider in the area to conduct an evaluation.

2. Start intervention as soon as possible! Behavioral therapy can be used to address anxiety, and including parents of young children in treatment is key. If behavior concerns or anxiety are present, contact Seedling Behavioral Psychology for parent training on managing these concerns.

3. Learn more about anxiety! Visit the Harvard Medical School website or the Center for Disease Control website for more information on anxiety in children.

A free therapy consultation in Draper

Hopefully this helps answer some of your questions about anxiety in children. If you are looking for more information on parent training or behavior support for your children, feel free to call me at (810)-613-9184 for a free 15-minute phone consultation, or click HERE to read more about how I can help.

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