Stress & anxiety

At a Glance: What Anxiety Looks Like in Kids

By Peg Rosen

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Children with learning and attention issues deal with challenges their peers may never think about. This makes them more prone to anxiety. Learn about signs to watch for in your child.

1.3kFound this helpful
At a Glance: What Anxiety Looks Like in Kids

Kids with learning and attention issues may be more likely than their peers to struggle with anxiety. Find out what anxiety might look like in your child.

What it looks like: You’re ve minutes late for pickup at a birthday party. Your sobbing daughter is convinced you were in a car accident.
What’s happening: Anxious children can focus on worries that something bad might happen to their parents. They may also be clingy and fearful of leaving you long past the point when “separation anxiety” is age-appropriate.
What it looks like: Family friends are over to watch the game. Your 14-year-old son is in his room with the door closed. You might even forget he’s there.
What’s happening: Such behavior seems to be rude or unfriendly. But it can be a sign that your child is afraid of socializing. In fact, anxiety is often missed in children who tend to withdraw.
What it looks like: Your son’s teacher says he’s constantly tapping his legs and seems wound up in class. She thinks he might have ADHD in addition to dyslexia.
What’s happening: It could be ADHD. But your son’s antsy behavior could also be a symptom of anxiety he’s feeling about reading and writing. Other physical signs of anxiety include dry mouth, rapid breathing, stomachache and dizziness.
What it looks like: Your daughter is constantly counting tiles or windowpanes.
What’s happening: Repeating tiny and meaningless rituals may be a way for your child to manage her fears. For example, “If I count 100 windowpanes, then I won’t fail the math test.” If this behavior continues, talk to her doctor about what you’re seeing. It could be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Graphic of At a Glance: What Anxiety Looks Like in Kids
Graphic of At a Glance: What Anxiety Looks Like in Kids

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About the Author

Portrait of Peg Rosen

Peg Rosen writes for digital and print, including ParentCenter, WebMD, Parents, Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Elizabeth Harstad

Elizabeth Harstad, M.D., M.P.H., is a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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