Anxiety is common amongst those aged 4-17 years, second only to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in its prevalence in Australia.
But how can you tell when your child is experiencing anxiety rather than depression or a behavioural condition?
Anxiety vs Depression
It can be difficult as many of the symptoms can overlap, but let’s take a look at anxiety and depression to start with.
Children who experience depression are more likely to have frequent episodes of sadness and crying, withdraw from friends and family and usual activities, experience feelings of worthlessness, fatigue and low energy, low self-esteem and self-confidence and begin talking about death and suicide.
A Fine Line
Children with anxiety are more likely to worry and withdraw from things only if they are concerned about what will happen, for example, they may not want to go to the park because there was a stranger there last time they went.
The reason a depressed child may not want to go to the park is more likely because they have low energy or just couldn’t be bothered – they lack motivation.
An anxious child would also be more likely to be sweaty and breathe rapidly at unusual times, for example, not after playing or physical activity – they can also appear panicky or feel dizzy.
Both can have difficulty sleeping, but the anxious child is more likely to experience nightmares or night terrors.
Anxiety vs ODD
Another increasingly common condition that children experience is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).
While the anxious child can become aggressive, be irritable and have tantrums, there are other symptoms.
The child with ODD experiences underlying aggression which drives their behaviour as the major symptom.
It manifests as irritability or becoming annoyed very easily – they have tantrums very often, argue with parents and siblings, and have a disregard for rules.
Anxiety vs ADHD
ADHD is the most common behavioural condition for Australians aged 4-17.
The disorder has a DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD that medical professionals use to make a diagnosis of ADHD.
It is divided into the broad categories of inattention or impulsivity-hyperactivity.
Six or more of the symptoms listed under these headings must be present for at least six months for a diagnosis to be made.
Anxiety, while not a symptom of ADHD, can be a comorbid condition, so children with ADHD can also experience anxiety.
Anxiety vs Autism
Another increasingly common condition is Autism Spectrum Disorder.
However, tell-tale signs are often apparent before age two. Some of these include lack of eye contact, playing alone and a child being unresponsive to their name. These are very different to the symptoms of anxiety.