How is anxiety different in children than in adults?
Children differ from adults in many ways: cognitively, behaviorally and emotionally.
These differences are apparent when it comes to mental health, in both normal and abnormal situations.
How does anxiety in children differ from anxiety in adults and what are its characteristics?
The following is a detailed explanation of anxiety in children, according to emotional, physiological, cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
The emotion that’s most common in children who experience anxiety is fear.
Children feel fearful in different situations, ranging from normal to abnormal.
Children who experience anxiety are usually unable to express it verbally and similarly do not possess the necessary vocabulary in order to express their fears and the anxiety they feel.
Therefore, it is of upmost importance that adults are aware of their children’s emotional state in order to notice when they are expressing their anxiety and how they express their anxiety.
Children with anxiety may express boredom in specific situations or agitation and anger, all of which are expressions of anxiety.
Another way children may express anxiety is through their body: when children complain of pains (stomach, head), which stems from their inability to separate emotional from physical.
More often than not, anxiety is accompanied by physical symptoms in adults and children alike.
Heart palpitations and sweating are the body’s natural reaction to anxiety, which indicate the body’s readiness to cope with impending danger.
It’s important to note that children who are experiencing anxiety are likely to complain about headaches, stomach aches and nausea.
For example, the healthy expression of stomach aches is nervous butterflies which are felt in times of stress and excitement.
When a child is experiencing anxiety the pain is usually more intense and often times manifests as a stomach ache.
If your child is complaining about stomach aches it’s likely to be an expression of anxiety.
If so, it is recommended to consult with a medical professional or mental health professional in order to rule out any physiological reasons for pain and to assess possible anxiety.
When experiencing anxiety, adults tend to regress to childlike mental patterns.
These patterns include catastrophic thinking, meaning the tendency to believe that anything negative is a sign for an impending disaster.
Adults and children with anxiety will also believe that they are unable to cope with what they perceive as an impending threat.
Children with anxiety will try to cope with this impending threat by using magical thinking or coming up with personal rituals for protection, such as a magical word or a specific movement.
These rituals sometimes develop into Obsessive - Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which is also a common disorder in children.
The most common behavioral expression of anxiety in both adults and children, is avoidance.
Avoidance is the tendency to stay away from the factor which causes the anxiety.
Avoidance is not only an expression of anxiety, but can also become a problem in and of itself.
the person suffering from anxiety tends to avoid more and more situations, which causes the anxiety to grow and the person’s quality of life to go down.
Avoidance in children is even more harmful because it affects the child’s self-development and ability to acquire necessary life skills.
Children are dependent on adults and are usually not in control of the situations which they are found in and they will not always be able to avoid what they feel is a threat to them.
In these situations anxiety will usually be expressed with crying, angry outbursts, freezing in place, violence or extreme attachment to an adult.