Anxiety disorders affect one in eight children, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). However, 80 percent of children with diagnosable anxiety disorders are not receiving the treatment they need. Unfortunately, children with untreated anxiety disorders are at a higher risk of performing poorly in school, avoiding social engagements and are prone to substance use.
In school, anxiety can manifest itself in several ways that can be mistaken for something else, shrugged off or even praised, depending on the behavior.
Here are a few ways anxiety manifests itself at in a school setting:
Perfectionism: When children are high achievers with good grades, it usually isn’t a cause for alarm. However, perfectionism may be a source of overwhelming emotional suffering due to fear of failure, a ruthless “inner critic” and a tendency to people-please. Perfectionists tend to work hard to keep up a positive image of success and accomplishment to the outside world, so they may be less likely to ask for help.
Skipping Class or School – Truancy: The action of skipping school without a good reason may also be a sign of anxiety. Although this may appear to be a rebellious act by students there may be more to the story. If school is a big source of anxiety for a child, refusing to go to school is common. These refusal rates are usually higher after vacations or sick days because it can be more difficult to return after an extended break. Skipping school may also be a sign of separation anxiety from the parents or could also be due to social anxiety of being around classmates.
Aggressive Behavior: Sometimes, feelings of anxiety can transform into anger, causing outbursts. When a child is feeling anxious and doesn’t know how to cope, that child’s survival response, often referred to as fight or flight, may kick in. If they’re likely to fight, this could result in hurting another student, teacher or faculty member. It may also result in damaging school property, such as throwing chairs, pushing over desks or punching a wall.
If your child is demonstrating these behaviors, it may be useful to consult their teacher or their pediatrician to see if a referral to a psychiatrist is necessary.
If you ever have a question about your children, want to schedule a check-up appointment, or are looking for a Denver-area pediatrician and want to learn more about our practice at Mountainland Pediatrics, call us at 303-430-0823.