School, Home and Social Situations
Many adults often suffer from anxiety, but few consider the possibility of children also being affected. In fact, anxiety can affect children’s everyday lives during some of the most developmental years, which can leave lasting impacts as he or she grows into an adult. Parents should be diligent in trying to notice patterns of behavior that may indicate their child is struggling with anxiety. But, what things should they look for?
Anxiety can often look like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and be displayed in physical ways like fidgeting or moving body parts rhythmically. A person’s mental abilities to perform a task, known as their executive functions, may be impacted. This could negatively affect things like attention, focus, working memory, task initiation and task completion. Anxiety could be preventing the brain from accessing frontal brain regions, which are responsible for the performance of these executive functions.
In a classroom setting, a child with anxiety will not raise their hand in class to participate out of fear of not being good enough and being judged by others. If the child is called upon, their mind goes blank and will not be able to answer the question even if the answer is known just moments before being called on. This fear of being called on can be so severe that they cannot even pay attention or focus during class. Children with anxiety often struggle with seeking additional academic support. While the child fears being teased by other students and will not ask questions during class, the child will also not seek help after class due to anxiety.
When completing assignments, children with anxiety may feel that all work must be perfect and will sometimes refuse to turn in work. Teachers may notice patterns of late work or work that has not been turned in at all. Sometimes children will have even completed the assignment, but refuse to turn it in, not because they have forgotten, but because they feel extremely anxious to do so. Procrastination is also commonly due to anxiety, because the child may not understand an assignment or fears their work will not be good enough.
At home, a parent may notice their child has trouble making decisions, has trouble advocating for their own needs, avoids eye contact, and is always second guessing every little thing. Anxiety often affects self-esteem as children may be fearful of making a mistake or saying something incorrect. Perfectionism can distress children, which often leads to not wanting to try new things out of fear of not being able to do them well enough. This often stems from fear of humiliation.
Children with anxiety can experience tremendous social issues, and will often prefer to sit alone at lunch or play alone on the playground. Children will not ask to play with other children or contact other children for play dates out of fear of embarrassment. Sometimes children with anxiety will cling to one friend they feel comfortable with and no one else. If a child with anxiety is being bullied by other children, they will not seek out assistance.
Parents that recognize any of these symptoms in their child should seek help from a mental health professional. If a child’s anxiety is not treated at a young age, it can heavily impact their development including academic performance, personal growth and social abilities.
Dr. Jolene Ross is a licensed psychologist and is an EEG-Certified Senior Fellow of the Biofeedback Certification International Association. She is a neurobehavioral psychologist with extensive experience in neurobiofeedback treatment, cognitive and behavioral therapy, and behavioral medicine. She received training in EEG assessment from Dr. K.H. Wong, of Children’s Hospital Medical Center Boston, and has an extensive background in the treatment of individuals with neuropsychiatric and neurobehavioral challenges. For more information, visit AdvancedNeurotherapy.com.