Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

September 2, 2020

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

How Anxiety Shows Up in our Bodies

By: Lindsey Anuzis, MA, LCMHCA, NCC, RBT

Hey parents – have you noticed changes in the way your kids or teens have been acting lately? Have they expressed that they are experiencing pain or discomfort somewhere in their bodies, without any reasonable explanation? Perhaps they have mentioned things such as having a headache, stomach ache, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath, back or joint pain, bowel irregularities, sleep disturbances, or low energy, among other things?

If you answered yes to any of those things, it is possible your child is experiencing anxiety! Anxiety is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions that occurs, yet research also indicates that anxiety disorders are frequently under-diagnosed.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 7.1% of children between the ages of 13-17, approximately 4.4 million children, have been diagnosed with anxiety. Anxiety presents more frequently in women than men, and typically increases with age.

Often times anxiety will quite literally show up in the body as a physical symptom. This can look like any of the aforementioned symptoms that show up without any reasonable explanation (like a sports injury, or having an infection, etc.). These physical presentations are referred to as somatic symptoms, and are extremely common in individuals with anxiety, depression, as well as other mental health conditions.

Unfortunately, because anxiety does commonly show up in physical ways, it is regularly mistaken for being a normal reaction to stress. While stress can have an impact on anxiety, it is not always the stand alone cause. This misrepresentation can unfortunately lead to a delayed diagnosis of anxiety, thus impacting treatment services, and causing individuals to live in chronic discomfort which can then foster feelings of learned helplessness and poor self-care. Additionally, prolonged distress can lead to stigmas of symptoms, such as thinking, “it’s all in your head.”

So, if you have concerns related to your child acting differently, and believe they may be experiencing symptoms of, or related to anxiety, reach out to a licensed mental health professional! We not only can help your child break the cycle of their anxious thoughts through evidence based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but we can also teach them coping and mindful skills to combat and relieve somatic symptoms.

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