What is anxiety?
Anxiety is characterised by excessive fear, apprehension, and other behavioural issues in response to an anticipated potential threat.
People with anxiety disorders often experience repetitive thoughts or worries and may avoid certain situations due to their concerns. Additionally, they may experience physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, feeling lightheaded, or a quick heartbeat.
Symptoms are often prolonged and can disrupt a person's daily life and overall wellbeing.
Signs and symptoms – children and young people
It’s not unusual for children or young people to show signs and symptoms of anxiety or worries occasionally. If infrequent, they may not be connected to an anxiety condition or disorder. However, if these symptoms occur frequently, follow a consistent pattern, or hinder a child or young person’s everyday life, they could indicate an anxiety condition or disorder. Common signs and symptoms of anxiety:
- regularly avoiding daily activities or situations like school, social events, playing, sport, eating or sleeping
- frequent physical complaints, like stomach-aches or headaches
- emotional outbursts, tantrums, or ‘meltdowns’
- difficulty sleeping
- changes in eating habits
- seeking reassurance often
- overplanning situations or overthinking things
- trouble concentrating or preoccupation.
Many things in a child or young person's life can make them feel anxious, and there is not always one cause or trigger. Where they live, their surroundings, and how people around them are feeling can all affect a child's symptoms of anxiety. A child’s family or support system can also play a big role in how they feel.
What does the evidence tell us?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions in children. In Australia, around 7% of children and young people suffer from a diagnosable anxiety disorder.
The true effect of anxiety disorders is likely higher in children from vulnerable populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
When addressed early, anxiety disorders can be managed more effectively and the risk of long-term challenges into adulthood can be reduced.
Tools and resources
Resources for families
- RCH Kids Health Information fact sheet: Anxiety – primary school aged children
- Child & teen depression & anxiety: support | Raising Children Network
- Anxiety in children and childhood fears | Raising Children Network
- Anxiety in teens: what it is & how to help | Raising Children Network
Projects - what we are doing?
As part of the Children’s Campus Mental Health Strategy, we are working on several projects that aim to improve care for children and young people experiencing common mental health conditions and concerns, like anxiety, across the Royal Children’s Hospital and wider clinical community.
Find out more about our projects:
Acknowledgement of Country
At Mental Health Central we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live, gather and work. We recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.
Proudly supported by the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation