What does anxiety in children and young people look like?
Young people and children who are anxious can present with a range of symptoms, such as fears or phobias about specific things such as spiders, needles, open spaces, small spaces, etc. Some young people or children have social anxiety which means that they are extremely worried about what others think of them and they often feel scrutinised and judged by others. This can have a large effect on them and render them unable to speak or eat in front of others.
Some children or young people have OCD which means that they get thoughts and worries in their minds which creates a tremendous amount of anxiety and the only way that they feel they can manage their anxiety is by performing certain rituals. These rituals can take over their lives and can sometimes take several hours which start to interfere in their school or social lives.
Other young people or children may present with general anxiety disorder where they find themselves anxious all the time over every thing in their lives. At other times young people or children experience panic attacks, which are usually quite frightening experiences.
Anxiety disorders can be incapacitating and crippling and can sometimes affect the whole family. It is not uncommon for anxiety disorders to be present for several years before someone seeks help for it.
What are the triggers?
Many things can trigger anxiety in young people or children, these are just a few examples:
- Loss of someone you loved
- Family conflict
- Difficulties in friendships or relationships
- School pressure
- Feeling like a failure
- Worrying about the way you look
- Feeling different from your peer group
- Feeling isolated or lonely
- Low self esteem
What can you do when you feel like that?
First of all, you are not alone. You are not a freak or mad. You are a brave young person who have been coping with many difficult feelings and I am proud of you. It is important to realise that your feelings are important and you deserve to be taken seriously. Talk to someone you trust or ask for help. I will provide a few links to sources of help. You are also more than welcome to come and have a chat with me. My details are on my website.
When you think your child is anxious:
- Don’t panic or get anxious
- Don’t minimise it
- Don’t ignore it
- Listen & understand
- Provide safety & security
It is also advisable to get professional help. The earlier we can intervene the better.
What is the treatment?
The good news is that both depression and anxiety are completely treatable. In situations where the symptoms are mild, the treatment of choice is therapy, usually CBT, and usually 10 – 12 sessions would be sufficient. If the symptoms are more severe, medication such as antidepressants could be combined with therapy. At times, where indicated, it may be useful to have some family therapy as well.
Useful addresses and telephone numbers
Project dedicated to supporting young people affected byself harm, providing a safe space to talk, ask questions, access information and ask for help.
Free 24/7 helpline for children and young people
Helpline: 0800 11 11
Textphone: 0800 400 222
Helpline: 08457 909 090
For people under 19 years. Confidential and anonymous email and telephone helpline support run by young volunteers.
Helpline: 02088 963 675
Email and online chat via website Monday and Wednesday 6:30 – 9:30 at
For young people who experienced a loss. It is a safe place where young people can share their stories with others. Here you will find information and a listening ear from other young people.
Information and advise to carers of any age has a directory of local carers groups.
Advice line: 0808 808 777