Childhood anxiety is becoming increasingly common. This may be due to increased pressure on children from home and school, family and/ or social structure changes as well as increased awareness of the condition by teachers and other professionals engaging with children.
In younger children, anxiety is often seen as separation anxiety: not wanting to leave a parent when dropped off at school, fear of a parent dying or becoming ill or fear of losing other loved ones. Older children can be anxious about performance at school, fear of social rejection or anxiety about their future when finishing school. Children can also be scared of a specific thing, such as an animal, place or of hurting themselves.
Common to all anxiety are feelings of fear and of not being in control. Children with anxiety are often perfectionists, pushing themselves to achieve in all areas of functioning. Symptoms can include: difficulty falling or staying asleep, avoiding a particular area or object, changes in appetite, stomach aches, dependent behaviour, questions about the feared object or circumstance, restlessness, fidgeting and dreaminess.
Anxiety is often misdiagnosed and, as such, not treated. Treatment usually includes play therapy (younger children) or psychotherapy (older or more mature children) focusing on understanding what anxiety is, identifying triggers as well as self-care techniques which can also include teaching deep breathing exercises, visualisation and cognitive behavioural therapy.