With more focus on mental health in the media lately, signs of anxiety have become more recognizable. Many people are aware of some symptoms of anxiety. While excessive worry is probably the most well-known and recognizable symptom of anxiety, some signs of anxiety may present differently than people expect. Physical signs of anxiety in children can be easily overlooked, such as headaches and stomachaches. When children are worried or upset about something, they may first complain of a headache or stomachache because they do not have the language to express feeling worried. But how can you tell when a physical complaint is a sign of anxiety or just an ordinary stomach or headache?
The first indicator that there may be something going on more serious than a run of the mill headache or a tummy ache is how long the pain has been around. Your child may be experiencing anxiety if their complaints are consistent and/or more frequent than usual. Another indicator that anxiety might be behind a child’s physical complaints is if the child develops a stomachache or headache at certain time of the day for most days.
If you begin to notice a predictable pattern to your child’s complaints, there may be something stressful going on that time of day. It may be time to think about what is going on at that time of day. For example, if your child experiences a stomach ache during their sixth period math class most days, then there is some anxiety centered on that class. For younger children, it is more common for them to complain of aches and discomfort at night around bedtime or during downtime when they are not busy. Ordinary physical discomfort that everyone experiences from time to time are infrequent and temporary.
It May Be Difficult to Know if Anxiety is the Problem
At other times the trigger for physical complaints or physical symptoms of anxiety may be unclear. Children may not be able to express why their stomach or head hurts because they do not know what worry or anxiety is or how to express their emotions to others. Adults may not even be able to put their finger on why their child is experiencing physical complaints. There is not always an immediate identifiable stressor for why a child is feeling worried, nervous or on edge. If there are no logical or ordinary reasons behind stomachaches or headaches, such as eating too much food or not drinking enough water, then anxiety could be the culprit. Pediatricians will also be able to help parents distinguish between health concerns or physical symptoms of anxiety.
Please do not hesitate to take your child to their doctor if their frequent concerns of headaches and stomachaches are concerning.
Other Signs of Anxiety in Children
I also wanted to mention other possible indicators of anxiety. While headaches and stomachaches are more common because they are more recognizable, fast heart rate/pounding heart, sweating, shortness of breath, frequent bathroom breaks, and muscle tension can also be physical symptoms of anxiety. Because headaches and stomachaches are more familiar to children, children are more likely to complain of those particular discomforts. However, these other signs can serve as indicators to parents that their children are feeling anxious. Fast heart rate and difficulty breathing are also symptoms of panic attacks. If your child experiences temporary but intense periods of time where they feel out of control, have difficulty catching their breath, and have a fast heart rate, then they are most likely experiencing a panic attack. Muscle tension, soreness, and even twitches are a strong indicator that a child is feeling tense and worried.
Physical & Mental Health Are Connected: Especially for Children
Being aware of the physical indicators of anxiety is very important in detecting anxiety early. People often forget that mental health can have a significant impact on physical health. Physical and mental health are connected and make up parts of our overall well-being. If you have any questions or would like to speak to one of our child and family therapists about your child’s anxiety, please feel free to contact Wellview Counseling at 678-288-6221. Children and adults can learn to overcome their anxiety, and I would like to help you and your family work towards wellness.
Begin Counseling in the Atlanta Area
If you have noticed these physical symptoms of anxiety in your child. Our caring therapists can help your child learn tools to cope with their anxiety. To get started please follow the following steps to see a child therapist in the Atlanta Area:
- Contact our counseling office
- Meet with one of our child & family therapists
- Give your child the coping skills they need to feel less anxious.
Other Services Offered by Wellview Counseling
In addition to providing child counseling, Wellview Counseling also offers play therapy, teen counseling, individual counseling, therapy for postpartum anxiety and depression, trauma and PTSD treatment, chronic illness counseling, family therapy, and positive discipline parent education opportunities. Also, if you cannot come to our Atlanta area counseling clinic, we encourage you to consider online therapy with one of our skilled therapists. Contact our office to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your child.
About the Author
Emily is one of the caring therapists at Wellview Counseling. If you suspect your child has anxiety or are otherwise concerned about their mental health, Emily would be glad to help.