WA PO: Anxiety "on the rise" among kids; behavior issues blamed on genetics/trauma

Oct 9, 2018, Washington Post: What does childhood anxiety look like? Probably not what you think A 7-year-old is the perfect student but destroys his bedroom and screams at his siblings after school. A 10-year-old snaps at her mother constantly, criticizing just about everything she does. An 8-year-old cries every morning before school and clings to his parents each time they attempt to drop him off at school, sports events or birthday parties. A 12-year-old experiences headaches that make it difficult to get out the door on time. A 6-year-old can’t fall asleep at night. Though all of these behaviors appear unrelated and present different challenges, they have one common thread: anxiety. Anxiety disorders are on the rise among children, and anxiety tends to spike during the school year. ... One of the difficult parts of getting help for children suffering from anxiety is that anxiety often presents as a constellation of negative behaviors. Parents and educators are quick to spot the behavior problem, but they don’t always see the underlying anxiety that drives it. “We tend to think of anxious children as these delicate little butterflies, but when kids are scared, they can be ferocious about trying to escape or avoid anxiety-provoking situations,” explains Eileen Kennedy-Moore, child psychologist and author of “Kid Confidence.”… Psychosomatic complaints: Kids don’t usually come home from school saying, “I felt really anxious at school today,” but they do say things like, “I have a terrible stomachache; I can’t go back to school tomorrow.” Frequent stomachaches, headaches and unexplained muscle aches and pains can all be symptoms of anxiety. It’s also important to watch for complaints of chest pain, racing heart, difficulty breathing, dizziness and difficulty swallowing. These can all be symptomatic of a panic attack. Anger and irritability: Most kids have meltdowns at times when they feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Frequent meltdowns that are lengthy and fueled by anger and irritability, on the other hand, are worth taking a second look. Child anxiety often looks like intense anger and a complete lack of emotional regulation…. There are also strategies that can be implemented at home and in school to help children manage and cope with their anxious thought patterns: • Sadness: Anxious kids can appear clingy, overwhelmed and sad. They are likely to burst into tears without explanation. • Isolation and avoidance: Anxious children often engage in social isolation. They avoid additional social interaction beyond school, choosing the safety and comfort of home to recover. They are also master procrastinators and tend to avoid challenges. • Fatigue: Coping with anxiety can be exhausting. Chronic fatigue in a previously active child can be a sign of anxiety. • Poor concentration: Anxiety can make it difficult to focus.School refusal: School can feel like an exercise in survival for kids with anxiety, and school refusal is often the first red flag parents and educators notice. • Frequent questions: Anxious kids tend to be concerned with personal safety and the safety of family and friends. They ask the same questions repeatedly and seek validation from adults often. Common triggers Kids will respond differently to various triggers and events. To that end, it’s important to understand your child’s baseline. Most kids experience some anxiety at times. Anxiety becomes problematic when it interferes with a child’s daily functioning. If anxiety makes it difficult for your child to get to school each day, focus, socialize and function within the family, it might be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety often has a genetic component, but it can also be triggered by a number of factors.... • Transitions: New homes, new schools and even new teachers can trigger an anxious child. • Loss: Divorce, death of a loved one or death of a pet can result in symptoms of anxiety. • Violence or abuse: Kids who experience child abuse or witness domestic violence or other acts of violence in the home can experience anxiety disorders…. Katie Hurley is a child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting educator, and the author of the new book “No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident and Compassionate Girls.” You can find her on Twitter and on her blog, Practical Parenting.