5 Types of Anxiety Symptoms in Children

Researchers put the various symptoms of children anxiety into several clusters: social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia/panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Self-report questionnaires are usually utilized as assessment tool to identify children with anxiety problems. Although concerned parents may not be able to administer a formal questionnaire assessment of their children, it helps for parents to be aware of the anxiety symptoms, and seek professional helps if necessary.

I: Panic Attack and Agoraphobia

Repeated panic attacks where an overwhelming fear of being in danger results in severe distress and physiological symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, trembling, sweating, chest pain, dizziness, feelings of unreality, and a fear of “going crazy” or dying.

  • I suddenly feel as if I can’t breathe when there 
is no reason for this

  • I suddenly start to tremble or shake when there 
is no reason for this

  • I feel scared if I have to travel in the car, or on 
a bus or a train

  • I am afraid of being in crowded places (like shopping centers, the movies, buses, busy playgrounds)

  • All of a sudden I feel really scared for no 
reason at all

  • I suddenly become dizzy or faint when there is 
no reason for this

  • My heart suddenly starts to beat too quickly for 
no reason

  • I worry that I will suddenly get a scared feeling 
when there is nothing to be afraid of

  • I am afraid of being in small closed places, like 
tunnels or small rooms

II: Separation Anxiety Disorder

Worry excessively about risks to parental safety or health and can exhibit dramatic displays of distress when caregivers attempt to leave them on their own. Children with separation anxiety disorder often exhibit school refusal and excessive dependent features.

  • I would feel afraid of being on my own at home

  • I worry about being away from my parents

  • I worry that something awful will happen to someone in my family

  • I feel scared if I have to sleep on my own

  • I have trouble going to school in the mornings because I feel nervous or afraid

  • I would feel scared if I had to stay away from home overnight

III: Social Phobia

A fear of embarrassment or negative evaluation by others, and results in avoidance of situations when the child fears acting in a humiliating or embarrassing manner.

  • I feel scared when 1 have to take a test

  • I feel afraid if I have to use public toilets or bathrooms

  • I feel afraid that I will make a fool of myself in front of people

  • l worry that I will do badly at my school work

  • I worry what other people think of me

  • I feel afraid if I have to talk in front of my class

IV: Physical Injury Fears

Persistent dread of an object or situation that is clearly out of proportion to the threat, resulting in significant functional impairment.

  • I am scared of the dark

  • I am scared of dogs

  • I am scared of going to the doctors or dentists

  • I am scared of being in high places or lifts (elevators)

  • I am scared of insects or spiders

V: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Recurrent intrusive thoughts or worries (obsessions) and/or behaviors that the person feels driven to do as a means of reducing the anxiety (compulsions).

  • I have to keep checking that I have done things right (like the switch is off, or the door is locked)

  • I can’t seem to get bad or silly thoughts out of my head

  • I have to think of special thoughts to stop bad things from happening (like numbers or words) I have to do some things over and over again (like washing my hands, cleaning or putting things in a certain order)

  • I get bothered by bad or silly thoughts or pictures in my mind

  • I have to do some things in just the right way to stop bad things happening

In addition to the five clusters mentioned above, there are some generalized anxiety disorders such as feeling afraid or worrying about things; sometimes when children have a problem, they may feel shaky, their heart may beat really fast or they get a funny feeling in the stomach.

Sources consulted:

Susan H. Spence. 1998. “A measure of anxiety symptoms among children.” Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36: 545-566.

Carol Rockhill, et al. 2010. “Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents.” Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 40(4): 66-99.


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