Are you Missing these 5 Uncommon Signs of Child Anxiety?

Parents would know if their child is anxious, right? You would see obvious signs? Your child would express all their fear and worries. They would be afraid all the time.

You might think you would know the signs of child anxiety. That it would be obvious. But, sometimes it is not. Sometimes parents miss it all together.

Unfortunately, anxiety isn’t always that obvious. Some children don’t vocalize their worries. They don’t show their fears. And anxiety isn’t on their parents’ radar.


In my child therapy practice parents often bring their children in for other reasons, only to discover that the problem is actually anxiety.


Here are five missed signs of child anxiety:




Anxiety isn’t just in our minds, it is in our body as well. Here are just a few examples-


Your child won’t poop. They have been constipated for weeks. You’ve been to the doctor and there is no medical origin.


Your child’s stomach hurts. They feel like throwing up. They are having gastrointestinal problems. You brought them to the pediatrician. You went to the gastrointestinal specialist. Your child has been poked, prodded and maybe even scoped. No medical origin has been found.


Anxiety isn’t just in the mind, it can be felt in the body as well.


Anxiety isn't just in our mind, it is in our body as well. Read the most common physical symptoms of anxiety.



Your child used to love school. They’ve always had friends and they have always gotten good grades. Now it is a battle just to get them in the car. They tell you they don’t feel well. Their stomach hurts. They say they are going to throw up. You keep them home – only to feel bamboozled because they seem fine shortly thereafter.


You talk to the teacher and the counselor. Everyone swears up and down that your child has friends. That they are not being bullied. That they enjoy school.


Weekends are pain-free. Your child seems completely healthy – and then Sunday rolls around. The cycle begins again.




Anger can be tricky. Kids can be angry for so many reasons. They might have difficulty self-regulating. They might have a mood issue. They might have a hard time accepting no. But along with the usual contenders, anxiety can be the underlining cause of anger too.


If your child stuffs their worries way down deep – the only thing to bubble to the surface might be their anger.


They come home from school ready to explode. Bedtime brings with it rage and resistance. New situations cause unusual hostility and defiance.


Pay attention to when and why your child gets angry – as it could be the key to unearthing the true cause.




Your child used to love soccer practice and now they are refusing to go. Your child said they wanted to take swim lessons, but after the first lesson you can’t get them back to class. Your child always wants to stay home and refuses to go to restaurants and stores with you.


When a child starts avoiding situations they used to enjoy – it is time to take a second look at why. It might be that they simply no longer like soccer or swim class – but it might be something more significant.


The #1 unhealthiest, go-to coping mechanism for anxiety is AVOIDANCE. Avoid at all costs.


If I don’t go to soccer, then I won’t have to worry about the ball hitting my face.


If I say I don’t want to go to swim, then I won’t have to worry about sinking to the bottom of the pool.


If I put up a big fight – then I won’t have to go to the restaurant and worry about throwing up in public.




Your child has to line up all their stuffed animals in a perfect row before they go to bed. You have to say “I love you” in a certain way – for a certain number of times – before your child will go to bed.


Parents often mistake ritualistic behavior for routines. Routines are comforting and predicable. Rituals are rigid and need to be redone if not done “correctly.” Routines are a healthy part of childhood – rituals are an indication of anxiety.


Anxiety is a very treatable condition. The earlier children get help – the better the prognosis in the long run. If you feel like your child is having some signs of anxiety, seek out the advice of a mental health professional. It can never hurt to get some professional input and guidance.


Educate yourself and find support and resources on the web. Watch parenting videos. Click here to check out an article on ways to plan ahead to handle your child’s anxiety. Think outside of the box. You can use yoga and other activities to help reduce you child’s anxiety. 


Did you find out your child had anxiety in an unusual way? Share in the comments below.


If you know someone who may show some of these signs – pass it on. Sharing is caring!

Do you know an anxious teen? Give them the only self-help book teens are likely to read:

Finally a teen anxiety book that teens will want to read!


Natasha Daniels is also the author of How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler. She offers a video course on How to Parent Your Anxious Kids – for all ages.


These are the best parenting lessons I have seen! Great quick videos on how to parent an anxious child.  


Visit Anxious Toddlers’s profile on Pinterest.

20 responses to “Are you Missing these 5 Uncommon Signs of Child Anxiety?”

  1. Phyllis says:

    I am glad you posted this because my son, who is on medication for anxiety, has these symptoms. When I asked the doctors what I should do about this type of behavior, they only said that I shouldn’t let him get away with it, as if he was just trying to manipulate me, and not that they were signs of the anxiety. Thank you for the insight.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I am glad the article helped Phyllis. I think this behavior is often misconstrued, which is very unfortunate.

  2. Elna says:

    Hi Natasha,

    I have 3 year old twins and I’m a stay-at-home mom. I’m noticed more fear and anxiety based behaviors in my children. I understand fear of bugs is normal, but my children seem to be totally scared of other kids. My daughter bursts out crying, cowers and runs away from other children and doesn’t go near them. Now my son is displaying this behavior too now.

    My son picks his fingers constantly, my daughter twirls her hair in knots all the time. I have no idea what do to. They are in soccer class and they don’t play and just hoover by me. My daughter says she wants to go home. Do I still take them? I take them to the library, park, Mc Donald’s, have play dates, but they never play with other kids.

    When they were 2 my son was fearful of dogs, now he isn’t. My daughter at two didn’t like adult men, but now she’s okay with her soccer coach or other non-family adult men in her life.

    I’m starting to get anxious when we go to the park and there’s kids there. I don’t want to feel like this. I’m worried they can’t integrate when school approaches. They’ve never been to day care, so now I’m thinking, maybe that will help but I can only imagine the crying and fearfulness when I leave them for day care.

    What strategies can I do besides keep taking them to these social places? They are great children, love playing with each other and are generally happy kids. Granted, I’m not a social butterfly, but I can’t have possibly contributed to this?

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Elna, Sorry to hear about your children’s struggles. Some toddlers have social anxiety. Sometimes the best place to start is with just a few kids on a play date. Often kids are scared because kids yank toys out of their hands, push and shout. You can teach your kids how to respond to these situations – using each other and puppets to role play. Sometimes kids don’t know how to start playing with others. You can role play this with them as well. The good news is this behavior typically gets better over time. Hang in there!

  3. Sue E says:

    In my opinion, I think years ago, doctors misdiagnosed children’s anxiety. Also the children should be seen not heard theory was in place. I am so happy that they can express themselves & have a voice in their own lives – especially where abuse is concerned!! I really think pediatricians should start handing out pamphlets on some of these childhood issues when the children get their first set of shots for school. After all, these are our babies we are trying to help! Thanks for such a good informative article!!

  4. Katrina says:

    So happy I found this article. My daughter will be 6 next month and after reading this article I am pretty certain she is experiencing anxiety. We kind of expected some sort of behavior change from the trauma she went through in April. See our daughter was riding her bike on the sidewalk when a car ran her over. All she would say was she didn’t want to die. It was definitely a traumatic experience for all of us. One thing that really stood out to me was the routines vs. rituals. At bedtime my daughter would always kiss me and give me “eskimo kisses” or “maga maga” as she calls it. But now she has to give me a kiss, “maga maga”, kiss my forehead, kiss my eye, and kiss my cheek. If she thinks she forgot one she will come back and do it again. I hadn’t thought much about it, just thought this was another routine. Thank you for this information.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Katrina,
      I am so sorry to hear about your daughter’s accident. I am glad you found the article helpful!

  5. KJ says:

    My 8yo son displays all of the symptoms in the article. Dr has checked hormone levels and thought he might have had glandular fever, but all tests came back negative.

    Added complication is that he is on the autistic spectrum, high functioning, but a lot of his symptoms get dismissed because ‘that’s typical of a child with ASD’ but no one seems to listen when I say he didn’t have those problems a few months ago.

    I was diagnosed with a ‘generalised anxiety disorder’ shortly after he was born, but honestly I’d been struggling with panic attacks for years before that. Is it inheritable?

    I’m not really sure how to help him.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi KJ, sorry to hear about your son’s struggles. Yes, anxiety disorders have a genetic component and can run in families. Also, it is not uncommon for children with ASD to often have anxiety-related issues as well.

      • KJ says:

        I’ve ordered the book off amazon. Are there any other resources/therapies you’d recommend looking into as well?

        He certainly sleeps better for a few nights after seeing the chiropractor, but the effects don’t seem to last more than a few days.

        • Natasha Daniels says:

          Hi KJ,
          I would recommend checking into a child therapist to help him. A child therapist can teach him skills to overcome the anxiety and can help you parental approaches to help the anxiety as well.

          If you don’t have a child therapist in your area, I have put together a parenting video that walks parents through everything I teach anxious kids in my therapy practice. You can find it at

  6. Kelly says:

    Yep, this is my 2.5 year old. She has been this way since birth. I often wondered if it was my fault bc I suffered undiagnosed post partum depression.
    It’s intimate social settings. We ‘avoid’ going to parties, home play dates, and some community social functions bc she gets so nervous. Normally kids will cling to a parent when uncomfortable, but ours cries hysterically until we leave. Then she’s fine. Yep, she wears the pants. However, she’s fine in restaurants, parks, zoos, loves to shop, can even handle outdoor type festivities,and does fine with people she’s used to being around. Although, Disney was not the happiest place on earth for her. It’s when the attention is on her. To clarify there are no signs of autism or sensory disorders. Just anxiety. My husband and I aren’t like this so we have a hard time coping with her inability to be in intimate settings and don’t know the appropriate way to help her cope. I will say with stamina she gets “over it” for lack of a better word. The doctor says she’ll out grow it while I worry it the anxiety would get worse. To top this off she can’t even handle a doctor’s visit without loosing her marbles. Thank you for the article and for everyone’s stories.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Kelly,
      Sorry to hear about your daughter’s struggles. I think it is better to give kids skills to cope with their anxiety rather than waiting to see if they will “grow out of it.” Even if this is your daughter’s temperament, there are great ways to help empower her. There are helpful books on how to parent a child with anxiety. You can check out my book on toddler anxiety, How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler.

  7. Kate says:

    My son is 6 and I sometimes wonder if he has anxiety. He does not have those signs but he did quit swimming because he would not try to swim by himself. Anything that involves taking a leap of faith like that, he will not do and will go into panic mode if you try to convince him. He also always needs to know where we are going, who is going to be there, etc. sometimes he even tries to plan out exactly how it will go ‘if j is there and he doesn’t want to play with me, then I’ll say____ or do____’ but other than that it doesn’t seem to hinder him to much so I don’t know if it’s anything to worry about or not.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Kate,
      All of us have different degrees of worry and/or anxiety in our personality. Many people can be worriers without an anxiety disorder.

      Some kids are cautious. It sounds like your son is too. He also sounds like a planner. As long as that is not impeding his social or emotional development – there is nothing to worry about. If you want peace of mind you can always have a consultation with a child therapist.

      When kids are overly cautious you want to explain everything that will be happening and address any of their “what if” concerns. You then want to help them through it one step at a time. For swimming that might mean wearing swim goggles in the bathtub and getting used to going under water there first. Then moving to the shallow end of the pool etc. This can be very slow going.

      It sounds like your son has some great coping mechanisms already! Yes, he has the worry of what to do if someone doesn’t play with him, but he also problem-solves a solution. That is actually great!

      Hope this answers your question.

  8. Amanda says:

    Does this list apply to 7yr olds? my 6, almost 7 year old displays pretty much all of these signs. I’ve thought the first step is talking to the school counselor, what is your take?

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Amanda,
      Yes, these signs would apply to kids of all ages. The school counselor would be a good start. It also couldn’t hurt to meet with a child therapist for an initial session without your child to get their input.

  9. Jennifer says:

    We always knew my son was a worrier but I started to see that it was something more when he started repeating himself under his breath after everything he said. I belive it’s called pallilalia. We are told this is a sign of anxiety and trauma. We have since identified many situations where his anxiety is present including at bedtime. We have seen a therapist 4 times now without my son (who is 5) and I think her advice is spot on. She told us to respond to his poor behaviour as if he is worried or sad or anxious instead of whatever the poor behaviour is. Mad is the hat sad wears, she told us. That really struck a chord. Address the feeling behind the action. If he’s whining and needing me for every little thing it’s likely because he needs to reconnect. Of he wants me to stay an extra 5 mins at bedtime, I should stay…give him what he needs…safety and security. From there we are told he will develop a sense of safety and security and his confidence will increase and his anxiety will improve. Thoughts? Does this sound like a good approach? And how long might it take for us to see improvements? Since we started he has been more clingy to us and having a harder time separating from us.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      I am sorry to hear about your little guy’s struggles. Sounds like he has some great parents to help him through. I love your therapist’s approach of addressing the anxiety behind the behavior, as many kids act out due to their anxiety.

      My therapeutic approach is a bit different with regard to bed time. I do feel it is key to help kids feel safe and secure, but I am also a big fan of giving kids the tools to feel empowered and independent. If we always lie with our anxious kids until they feel safe and secure, some of us would be lying next to them until they go to college. I also feel it can exacerbate anxiety – making them co-dependent on our presence to feel safe.

      I have three anxious kiddos at home and bed time has been a challenge for all three of them at various times in their development. I think it is important to validate their fears and offer some comfort, but then help them reframe their thinking, offer them tools to make themselves feel safe and praise their bravery and progress. I talk about some of these approaches in my article 5 Things you Can do Tonight to Help Your Child’s Nighttime Fears

      There is no right way or wrong way to help anxious kids. Therapists all have their own unique style and approach to issues. Mine just happens to be a bit different than the one you described.

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