What are the signs of anxiety in a child

Anxiety disorders in children - NHS

It's normal for children to feel worried or anxious from time to time – such as when they're starting school or nursery, or moving to a new area.

But for some children, anxiety affects their behaviour and thoughts every day, interfering with their school, home and social life.

This is when you may need professional help to tackle it.

Symptoms of anxiety in children

Signs to look out for in your child are:

  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • not sleeping, or waking in the night with bad dreams
  • not eating properly
  • quickly getting angry or irritable, and being out of control during outbursts
  • constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
  • feeling tense and fidgety, or using the toilet often
  • always crying
  • being clingy
  • complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell

Separation anxiety is common in younger children, whereas older children and teenagers tend to worry more about school or have social anxiety.

How to help your anxious child

If your child is having problems with anxiety, there's plenty you can do to help.

Above all, it's important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries.

Read more about how to help an anxious child, including self-help tips for parents of anxious children.

Many children at different ages may have anxieties that will go away after a while, with your reassurance.

However, it's a good idea to seek professional help or reassurance yourself if your child is constantly anxious and:

  • it's not getting better, or is getting worse
  • self-help is not working
  • it's affecting their school or family life, or their friendships

Where to get help for anxiety

An appointment with a GP is a good place to start.

You can talk to the GP on your own or with your child, or your child might be able to have an appointment without you.

If the GP thinks your child could have an anxiety disorder, they may refer them for an assessment with your local children and young people's mental health services (CYPMHS).

Specialist CYPMHS are NHS mental health services that focus on the needs of children and young people. CYPMHS workers are trained to help young people with a wide range of problems, including anxiety.

If your child does not want to see a doctor, they may be able to get help directly from a local youth counselling service. For more information, visit Youth Access.

Treatments for anxiety disorders in children

The type of treatment offered will depend on your child's age and the cause of their anxiety.

Counselling can help your child understand what's making them anxious and allow them to work through the situation.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help your child manage their anxiety by changing the way they think and behave. Learn more about CBT.

Anxiety medicines may be offered to your child if their anxiety is severe or does not get better with talking therapies. They're usually only prescribed by doctors who specialise in children and young people's mental health.

What causes anxiety disorders in children

Some children are simply born more anxious and less able to cope with stress than others.

Children can also pick up anxious behaviour from being around anxious people.

Some children develop anxiety after stressful events, such as:

  • frequently moving house or school
  • parents fighting or arguing
  • the death of a close relative or friend
  • becoming seriously ill or getting injured in an accident
  • school-related issues like exams or bullying
  • being abused or neglected

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autistic spectrum disorders are more likely to have problems with anxiety.

More information and support

For you

  • Mental Health Foundation: The Anxious Child – a booklet for parents and carers
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists: worries and anxieties – helping children to cope
  • YoungMinds Parents Helpline – call 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4pm, free for mobiles and landlines)

For your child

  • YoungMinds: anxiety
  • Childline: managing your anxiety

Page last reviewed: 1 December 2020
Next review due: 1 December 2023

Anxiety and Depression in Children

Many children have fears and worries, and may feel sad and hopeless from time to time. Strong fears may appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often very distressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe and cared for. Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression. Because the symptoms primarily involve thoughts and feelings, they are sometimes called internalizing disorders.


When a child does not outgrow the fears and worries that are typical in young children, or when there are so many fears and worries that they interfere with school, home, or play activities, the child may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Examples of different types of anxiety disorders include

  • Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety)
  • Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)
  • Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)
  • Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)
  • Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder)

Anxiety may present as fear or worry, but can also make children irritable and angry. Anxiety symptoms can also include trouble sleeping, as well as physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches. Some anxious children keep their worries to themselves and, thus, the symptoms can be missed.

Related conditions include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Learn more about anxiety in children


Occasionally being sad or feeling hopeless is a part of every child’s life. However, some children feel sad or uninterested in things that they used to enjoy, or feel helpless or hopeless in situations they are able to change. When children feel persistent sadness and hopelessness, they may be diagnosed with depression.

US Preventive Services Task Force: Learn about recommendations to screen children and adolescents for depression

Examples of behaviors often seen in children with depression include

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time
  • Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things
  • Showing changes in eating patterns – eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
  • Showing changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal
  • Showing changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
  • Having a hard time paying attention
  • Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty
  • Showing self-injury and self-destructive behavior

Extreme depression can lead a child to think about suicide or plan for suicide. For youth ages 10-24 years, suicide is among the leading causes of death. Read about youth suicide prevention.

Some children may not talk about their helpless and hopeless thoughts, and may not appear sad. Depression might also cause a child to make trouble or act unmotivated, causing others not to notice that the child is depressed or to incorrectly label the child as a trouble-maker or lazy.

Learn more about depression in children

Treatment for anxiety and depression

Learn about the guidelines for diagnosing and treating anxiety and depression

Learn about the FDA’s warning when using antidepressants with young people

The first step to treatment is to talk with a healthcare provider such as your child’s primary care provider, or a mental health specialist, about getting an evaluation. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recommends that healthcare providers routinely screen children for behavioral and mental health concerns. [217 KB, 13 pages] Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression in children could be caused by other conditions, such as trauma. Specific symptoms like having a hard time focusing could be a sign of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is important to get a careful evaluation to get the best diagnosis and treatment. Consultation with a health provider can help determine if medication should be part of the treatment. A mental health professional can develop a therapy plan that works best for the child and family. Behavior therapy includes child therapy, family therapy, or a combination of both. The school can also be included in the treatment plan. For very young children, involving parents in treatment is key. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one form of therapy that is used to treat anxiety or depression, particularly in older children. It helps the child change negative thoughts into more positive, effective ways of thinking, leading to more effective behavior. Behavior therapy for anxiety may involve helping children cope with and manage anxiety symptoms while gradually exposing them to their fears so as to help them learn that bad things do not occur.

Treatments can also include a variety of ways to help the child feel less stressed and be healthier like nutritious food, physical activity, sufficient sleep, predictable routines, and social support.

Get help finding treatment

Here are tools to find a healthcare provider familiar with treatment options:

  • Psychologist Locator, a service of the American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Organization.
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finder, a research tool by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).
  • Find a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, a search tool by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
  • If you need help finding treatment facilities, visit MentalHealth. gov.

Managing Symptoms: Staying Healthy

Being healthy is important for all children and can be especially important for children with depression or anxiety. In addition to getting the right treatment, leading a healthy lifestyle can play a role in managing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Here are some healthy behaviors that may help:

  • Having a healthy eating plan centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (for example, beans, peas, and lentils), lean protein sources, and nuts and seeds
  • Participating in physical activity for at least 60 minutes each day
  • Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night based on age
  • Practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques

Prevention of anxiety and depression

It is not known exactly why some children develop anxiety or depression. Many factors may play a role, including biology and temperament. But it is also known that some children are more likely to develop anxiety or depression when they experience trauma or stress, when they are maltreated, when they are bullied or rejected by other children, or when their own parents have anxiety or depression.

Although these factors appear to increase the risk for anxiety or depression, there are ways to decrease the chance that children experience them. Learn about public health approaches to prevent these risks:

  • Suicide Prevention
  • Bullying prevention external icon
  • Child maltreatment prevention
  • Youth violence prevention
  • Depression after birth
  • Caring for children in a disaster
  • Adolescent and School Mental Health

How to recognize anxiety in a child and help him cope with this condition?

The main task of parents is to protect not only the physical condition of their child, but also his emotional health.

Euromed Kids neuropsychologist Elena Vladimirovna Loseva told how parents can help a child cope with anxiety.

Anxiety is a negative emotion that expresses a feeling of uncertainty, the expectation of negative events.

At the same time, it can be associated with the expectation and anticipation of unpleasant experiences or danger, even if everything around is good and safe.

How to understand that a child suffers from anxiety, even if he himself does not talk about it?

Here are the most common symptoms:

  • Constant restlessness.
  • Difficulty or sometimes inability to concentrate on something
  • Muscle tension (for example, in the face, neck).
  • Irritability.
  • Behavior change.
  • Sleep disorders.

A child's anxiety largely depends on the level of anxiety of the adults around him.

The child "reads" the anxiety of the parents, even when they themselves do not notice it or try to hide it. He becomes overly responsible, for example, very worried about his results in school.

How can I help my child deal with anxiety?

Helping a child overcome anxiety means creating conditions in which he will not be so afraid. If the child is afraid to fall asleep in the dark, let him fall asleep in the light; if he is afraid to ask passers-by for directions, ask with him.

In this way you show him how to deal with situations that worry him.

Do with your child, not instead. From , try to look for positive moments in any situation, be optimistic. Children with a high level of anxiety have low neurodynamic parameters.

Also, constant anxiety can cause health problems.

Can the recently popular anti-stress toys help to cope with anxiety?

Yes, such toys help to relax in a stressful situation, improve attention. Due to the fact that the child sorts out some objects in his hands, he transfers the focus of attention to them. Connecting the senses, the baby stabilizes his emotional background and is distracted from restless thoughts.

Such toys can always be kept "at hand" in a state of anxiety and anxiety. They are easy to use, affordable, and most importantly - completely harmless, unlike dietary supplements and psychoactive substances used without a prescription.

But if you notice that your child's anxiety affects the quality of life, be sure to contact a specialist.

You can make an appointment for a consultation by calling +7 812 331 00 00 or online on the website.

Children's anxiety. How to help an anxious child? | "Four leaf clover"

Child anxiety

Anxiety is commonly referred to as an increased tendency to experience apprehension and worry. In some situations, anxiety is justified and even useful: it mobilizes a person, allows you to avoid danger or solve a problem. This is the so-called situational anxiety. But sometimes anxiety accompanies a person in all life circumstances, even objectively favorable ones. That is, it becomes a stable personality trait. Such a person experiences constant unaccountable fear, an indefinite sense of threat. Any event is perceived as unfavorable and dangerous.

An anxious child is constantly depressed, on guard, it is difficult for him to establish contact with others, the world is perceived as frightening and hostile.

An anxious child is constantly depressed, on guard, it is difficult for him to establish contact with others, the world is perceived as frightening and hostile. Low self-esteem and a gloomy look at the future are constantly fixed.

Signs of anxiety:

  • The child cannot work for a long time without getting tired
  • He has difficulty concentrating on something
  • Any occupation causes unnecessary anxiety
  • During the performance of the task is very tense, constrained
  • Embarrassed more often than others
  • Often talks about stressful situations
  • Blushing in unfamiliar surroundings
  • Complains about having nightmares
  • His hands are usually cold and damp
  • He often has stool disorder
  • Sweats profusely when excited
  • Does not have a good appetite
  • Sleeps restlessly, falls asleep with difficulty
  • Shy, many things cause him fear
  • Usually restless, easily upset
  • Often unable to hold back tears
  • Does not tolerate waiting well
  • Doesn't like to take on new business
  • Not confident in himself and his abilities
  • Afraid to face difficulties

Childhood anxiety at different ages

Preschool anxiety
It is often difficult for parents to understand why their child may be worried. Well, what problems can there be at his age: dressed, well-fed, the yard is full of friends, a lot of toys, loving relatives ?!
However, the presence of childhood anxiety problems signals that in the life of a small person, not everything is as smooth as it seems to adults. This condition should never be ignored. In addition, it doesn’t matter if you have a son or a daughter, at this age anxiety does not depend on the child’s gender.

Anxiety is inherent in a person, regardless of age. In children from 1 to 3 years of age, the most common fears are caused by sharp loud sounds, sudden pain, for example, during vaccinations, and as a result, a negative reaction to doctors. In the age range from 3 to 5 years, anxiety in preschoolers often manifests itself in the form of fears such as fear of the dark, closed space, and loneliness. At the age of 5 to 7 years, fear of death is often added. If you notice anxiety in your child, in no case should you let this problem go by itself.

In the age range from 3 to 5 years, anxiety in preschoolers often manifests itself in the form of such fears as fear of the dark, closed space, loneliness. At the age of 5 to 7 years, fear of death is often added.

School anxiety
The age from 7 to 11 years can become very difficult. At this time, the child's life changes, he becomes an adult, he is entrusted with the mission of studying well, behaving correctly, being better, diligent, smarter than his peers.

Usually, anxiety manifests itself 1.5 months after the start of the school year, it is in connection with this that schoolchildren need rest - holidays from 1 to 1.5 weeks.

Usually, anxiety manifests itself 1.5 months after the start of the school year, it is in connection with this that schoolchildren need rest - holidays from 1 to 1.5 weeks.

Sometimes anxiety is related to more serious problems. So, with the help of a professional psychologist at the Four-Leaf Clover Clinic of Restorative Psychology, a child can be diagnosed with a mental disorder, neurosis at an early stage.

Where does increased anxiety come from?

  1. If there is a constant anxious and suspicious atmosphere in the house. If the parents themselves are constantly afraid of something and worry about something. This condition is very contagious, the child adopts from adults an unhealthy form of reaction to everything, even to ordinary life events.
  2. If the child lacks information (or uses incorrect information). Try to keep track of what he reads, what programs he watches, what emotions he experiences. It is sometimes difficult for adults to understand how children interpret this or that event.
  3. Anxious children can grow up not only with anxious parents. The authoritarian style of parenting in the family also does not contribute to the inner peace of the child.

Parents who do not doubt and do not worry know exactly what and how to achieve in life. And most importantly - what they want to achieve from their child. Such a child must constantly live up to the high expectations of adults. He is in a situation of constant and intense expectation: he managed or failed to please his parents. It is especially difficult for a child if the demands and reactions of adults are unpredictable and inconsistent.

A child's internal conflict can be caused by:

  • Contradictory demands made by parents or parents and the school (kindergarten). For example, parents do not let their child go to school because they feel unwell, and the teacher puts a “deuce” in a journal and scolds him for skipping a lesson in the presence of other children.
  • Inadequate requirements, most often overstated. For example, parents repeatedly repeat to the child that he must certainly be an excellent student, they cannot come to terms with the fact that the child receives at school not only "five" and is not the best student in the class.
  • Negative demands that humiliate the child, put him in a dependent position. For example, a caregiver or teacher says to a child: “If you tell me who behaved badly in my absence, I won’t tell my mother that you got into a fight.”

Experts believe that in preschool and younger preschool age boys are more anxious, and after 12 years - girls. At the same time, girls are more worried about relationships with other people, and boys are more worried about violence and punishment.

Having committed some “unseemly” act, the girls worry that their mother or teacher will think badly of them, and their girlfriends will refuse to be friends with them. In the same situation, boys are likely to be afraid that they will be punished by adults or beaten by their peers.

How to help an anxious child?

  • Raise the child's self-esteem

To achieve success in this matter, it is necessary that an adult himself see the dignity of the child, treat him with respect (and not just with love) and be able to notice all his successes, even the smallest ones.

  • Teaching a child to manage their behavior

It is necessary to teach the ability to manage oneself in situations that cause the greatest anxiety in the child

  • Teach the child to relax

It is important for all children to be able to relax, but for anxious children it is simply a necessity, because the state of anxiety is accompanied by a clamping of different muscle groups.
It is very useful for such a child to attend group psycho-corrective classes - after consultation with a psychologist. The topic of childhood anxiety is well developed in psychology, and usually the effect of such activities is palpable.

Prevention of anxiety. Recommendations to parents.

  • Communicating with your child, do not undermine the authority of other significant people.

For example, you can’t say to a child: “Your teachers understand a lot, better listen to your grandmother!”.
Be consistent in your actions, do not forbid the child for no reason what was allowed before.

  • Consider children's abilities, do not demand from them what they cannot do.

If a child is given some kind of educational Subject with difficulty, it is better to once again help him and provide support, and when even the slightest success is achieved, do not forget to praise him.

  • Trust your child, be honest with him and accept him for who he is.

If for some objective reasons it is difficult for a child to study, choose a circle for him to his liking so that classes in it bring joy to the child and he does not feel disadvantaged.

If parents are not satisfied with the behavior and success of their child, this is not a reason to deny him love and support. Let your child live in an atmosphere of warmth and trust, and then all his many talents will manifest.

Learn more