Anxiety is an umbrella term for a variety of mental health conditions. As the COVID-19 pandemic has raged on, anxiety is becoming increasingly common among children and young adults. However, it isn’t always easy to differentiate anxiety from normal emotions and behaviors. Here are 5 symptoms of anxiety that you could be ignoring:
If you or your child is having trouble falling or staying asleep, then anxiety might be to blame. (1) Racing thoughts or worries about the next day can make it difficult to sleep well. As with any new or concerning symptom, it’s important to share this information with your physician or your child’s pediatrician. This is because any symptom, including insomnia, could potentially be caused by a medical condition. Once you’ve ruled out medical concerns, then you can talk with the doctor about managing anxiety and getting better sleep.
Engaging in dangerous behaviors like drinking or drug use can all be signs of an underlying condition. Having an anxiety disorder actually places a person at high risk of a substance use problem. Using substances can be a way to cope with the intensity of anxiety or other mental health disorders. (2) It’s important to help teenagers and adolescents learn other ways of coping, so as to prevent them from participating in these behaviors.
Like substance use, eating too much or too little can also be a sign of a condition like anxiety. Eating disorders are extremely common among people with anxiety. (3)
Chronic Physical Symptoms
Physical symptoms are especially common in children with anxiety, but teens and adults of all ages can experience headaches, stomach aches, and racing heart beats as a result of feeling anxious. If your child complains about a stomach ache each morning while getting ready for school (and you can’t find a medical reason), then you might want to check in with them to see if they are experiencing emotions that could be related to anxiety.
Obsessions and Compulsions
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not a personality quirk. On the contrary, people with OCD suffer from intrusive thoughts and feel compelled to perform rituals to alleviate their anxiety. The rituals are similar to “magical thinking” in that they are completely unrelated to the intrusive thought. For instance, someone with OCD might turn the light switch on and off exactly 14 times, believing that performing this act will keep a loved one safe. Because OCD is so associated in the public consciousness with cleanliness and order, a person who isn’t focused on germs (a common OCD fear) might not immediately realize that they have OCD at all. If you notice your child performing rituals or complaining about intrusive thoughts — or if you have these experiences yourself — then you might have obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Since so many people with OCD do worry about germs and sickness, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for this population. (4) A therapist can help people with obsessive-compulsive disorder reframe their thoughts through specific therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Worries About Your Physical Health
Similar to OCD, health anxiety is a form of anxiety that might go unnoticed unless it is especially severe or obvious. Health anxiety, or illness anxiety disorder, can occur for many reasons. Often, this condition occurs in people who are sensitive to bodily sensations, such as the sound of their heartbeat. A person with health anxiety can have catastrophic thinking. For example, they might deeply worry that a headache is a brain tumor. Health anxiety can be extremely debilitating. People with health anxiety can spend hours researching their symptoms online and falling further and further into a cycle of fear and worry, all while truly believing that there is something physically wrong with them.
The COVID-19 pandemic can be especially triggering for people with health anxiety. If you have health anxiety, or if you notice that your child is unreasonably anxious about their health, it’s important to seek help from a therapist. Limiting media and news consumption can also help to reduce these fears and eliminate triggers. (5)
Services at NeuroBehavioral Associates
NeuroBehavioral Associates provides a variety of services to children, teens, and adults with known or suspected attention, learning, or neurodevelopmental differences. We offer comprehensive assessments and consultations to determine appropriate interventions, therapies, and supports. Contact our Columbia, Maryland office today at 410-772-7155 for more information on our services or to schedule an appointment.
NeuroBehavioral Associates remains open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We are continuing to provide in-office assessments, consultation, and therapy services. We are also using telehealth tools to complement our in-office visits.
- Suni, E. (2020, December 10). Anxiety and Sleep. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/anxiety-and-sleep
- Substance Use. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/co-occurring-disorders/substance-abuse
- Gardner, A. (2019, December 19). Two-Thirds of people with an eating disorder have this mental health problem too. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.health.com/condition/ocd/eating-disorders-anxiety
- Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. (n.d.). COVID-19 Q&A: OCD. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://med.stanford.edu/psychiatry/about/covid19/ocd.html
- Jungmann, S. M., & Witthöft, M. (2020, May). Health anxiety, cyberchondria, and coping in the CURRENT Covid-19 PANDEMIC: Which factors are related to coronavirus anxiety? Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32502806/