Kids With Anxiety Often Complain Of Stomach Pains And Headaches
Kids with anxiety can be a real challenge for parents to recognize. As you would expect, the biggest reason may be that children dont yet have the ability to fully express themselves verbally.
Theyre unable to say to you, Going to the playground today is causing me some anxiety, so I dont want to go.
The 2018 Childrens Mental Health Report concludes that at some point, anxiety affects 30% of children and adolescents, yet 80% never get help.
Untreated anxiety disorders are linked to depression, school failure and a two-fold increase in risk for substance use disorder, the report says. Its what is known as a gateway disorder.
That can of real concern to parents everywhere.
Thankfully Childmind.org has some information for parents that will make recognizing anxiety in kids much, much easier.Symptoms of Anxiety in KidsNote: Before you attribute your childs physical symptoms to anxiety, be sure to have a checkup with your doctor to rule out any medical problems.Physical symptomsIf your child frequently visits the school nurse, this could be an important sign he or she is struggling with anxiety.
Tummy Aches This is a very common complaint that kids with anxiety often repeat again and again. They feel the nervousness in their stomach, the way we all have at one time or another, and it feels bad. Its easy for them to say my tummy hurts because it does.
Headaches Kids will usually say my head hurts, rather than I have a headache.
Anxiety Is A Fear Of The Future And All Its Unpredictability
“The main thing to know about anxiety is that it involves some level of perception about danger,” says Pine, and it thrives on unpredictability. The mind of an anxious child is often on the lookout for some future threat, locked in a state of exhausting vigilance.
We all have some of this hard-wired worry, because we need it. Pine says it’s one of the reasons we humans have managed to survive as long as we have. “Young children are naturally afraid of strangers. That’s an adaptive thing. They’re afraid of separation.”
Full-blown anxiety happens when these common fears get amplified as if someone turned up the volume and they last longer than they’re supposed to. Pine says separation anxiety is quite common at age 3, 4 or 5, but it can be a sign of anxiety if it strikes at age 8 or 9. According to research, 11 is the median age for the onset of all anxiety disorders.
A bundle of factors contributes to a child’s likelihood of developing anxiety. Roughly a third to half of the risk is genetic. But environmental factors also play a big part. Exposure to stress, including discord at home, poverty and neighborhood violence, can all lead to anxiety. Research has shown that women are much more likely than men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder over their lifetime and that anxiety, as common as it is, appears to be vastly underdiagnosed and undertreated.
Treatments For Anxiety Disorders In Children
The type of treatment offered will depend on your child’s age and the cause of their anxiety.
Counselling can help your child understand what’s making them anxious and allow them to work through the situation.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a talking therapy that can help your child manage their anxiety by changing the way they think and behave. Learn more about CBT.
Anxiety medicines may be offered to your child if their anxiety is severe or does not get better with talking therapies. They’re usually only prescribed by doctors who specialise in children and young people’s mental health.
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Could It Be Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance causes bloating, gas and diarrhoea. These symptoms will become worse with the ongoing exposure to dairy products. Aside from temporarily easing the stomach pain with rest, heat and sitting on the toilet, the best and only way to be rid of these types of stomach aches is to identify this intolerance and then to eradicate lactose from your child’s diet permanently.
Signs And Symptoms In Children With Anxiety
As much as it is common to have occasional anxiety, it is also common for children to have anxiety disorders. While estimates of the prevalence vary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 7.1% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have diagnosable anxiety.
Children with true anxiety symptoms may experience symptoms that include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
The frequency and appearance of symptoms can vary depending on the nature of the anxiety. Some fears may be triggered by specific situations, objects, or settings. Other types of anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, can lead to symptoms that occur with greater frequency.
Other indicators of concern include symptoms that interfere with a child’s ability to learn, interact with peers, sleep at night, or function normally in daily life.
Normal childhood fears that persist beyond the age where they are expected to fade are also a point of concern.
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When Should I Seek Professional Help For My Anxious Child
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and our experts, you should consult a psychologist or psychiatrist with experience treating children with an anxiety disorder when the childs behavior or anxiety:
- Disrupts the household and interferes with family activities and life
- When the child gets upset multiple times a day or week
- When the frequency and intensity of the fears escalate .
- When the anxiety leads to significant avoidance behavior. The child continually and consistently makes excuses to avoid school or other situations that may provoke anxiety.
- When the disorder is making it difficult for the child to interact with, make or keep friends.
- When sleep habits are disrupted
- When you begin to see compulsive behaviors and rituals such as repeated hand washing, counting, checking things and when the child refuses or is unable to leave the house without performing these rituals.
- When your child shows a pattern of physical symptoms that are disruptive and detrimental to the child
- When your child experiences panic attacks characterized by heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, hyperventilation.
Cozy Up Under A Blanket With A Heating Pad On Your Abdomen
Its not a hard sell when you feel like crap, but getting under a blanket with a heating pad on your abdomen can actually help fight gas. Like peppermint, warmth can have an antispasmodic effect on your body and help your intestines to relax instead of contract too hard or too much, lessening that achy sensation that all too often comes along with gas, Dr. Wakim-Fleming says.
And dont worry that lying down means your gas is having to struggle against gravity to exitit makes no difference either way, Dr. Farhadi says.
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Your Upset Stomach May Be Cause By Stress
An upset stomach is one of the most common symptoms of stress and anxiety. This can come from a single stressful moment like public speaking or a bad breakup or chronic worry over time from work or a global pandemic.
If your stomach hurts without any obvious cause, such as food illness, its possible that feelings of stress or anxiety could be the trigger. In addition to stomachaches, stress can also cause other digestive problems:
While these symptoms may stem from stress or anxiety, they can also become a source of stress. For example, someone who experiences diarrhea or urgency with bowel movements may fear having an accident in public this can prevent them from leaving their home or limit the places they go.
Eat Properly To Help Your Digestion
Its very easy to spend our working lives eating on the move or at our desks, gulping down food between meetings and then crashing out in front of the TV with a takeaway in the evenings.
But eating this way can play havoc with our digestive system.
Follow some basic rules to prevent problems:
- Do not rush your food. Take the time to eat slowly. Try putting your fork down between bites and chew each mouthful well.
- Do not overeat. Reduce the size of your portions at mealtimes, or try eating 4 to 5 small meals instead of 3 large ones.
- Eat regularly and try not to skip meals.
- Avoid eating a big meal just before you go to bed. Eat your last meal at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down.
- Make sure you have plenty of water to drink.
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Could It Be Colic
A common cause of upset in babies under six months old, colic describes the unexplained stomach pain experienced by otherwise healthy babies for part of most days. Colic is diagnosed in about 20% of all babies. Aside from being extremely unsettled, babies with colic will extend their legs and then pull them up hard against their belly, as well as pass excessive gas. There is no cure for colic but the vast majority of babies will have outgrown the condition by five months.
Presenting The Treatment Plan
Review results of the diagnostic evaluations and be sure that the family has not misinterpreted incidental physical or laboratory findings as clinically significant. Inquire whether the parent has concerns about a particular disease and if so, explain how that disease has been ruled out and/or why further evaluation is not indicated at this time. Praise the parent for having obtained a thorough medical evaluation that ruled out organic disease. Explain that FAP causes real pain but is diagnosed by symptoms rather than a specific laboratory or radiographic test. Schedule a return appointment and assure the parent that you will evaluate any new or substantially changed symptoms.
Introduce the treatment as a process of rehabilitation. Refer to common examples of rehabilitation, for example, rehabilitation following a sports injury, and explain that rehabilitation begins while people are still experiencing symptoms. This point merits emphasis, as many families assume that symptoms must be resolved before children return to their normal activities.
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Be On The Lookout For The Physical Signs Of Anxiety
The worried feelings that come with anxiety can seem hidden to everyone but the child trapped in the turbulence. That’s why it’s especially important for grown-ups to pay close attention to a child’s behavior and to look for the telltale signs of anxiety in children.
Anna, of Brampton, England, remembers when her 7-year-old son started having trouble at school.
“He was just coming home and saying his stomach hurt. He was very sick,” Anna says. When she followed up with him to try to get to the root of his stomachache, she says, “he did tell me he was worried about school, and he told me specifically it was a teacher that he was worried about.”
A stomachache, headache or vomiting can all signal anxious feelings, especially as a child gets closer to the source of the anxiety.
“You’ll see that they’ll have a rapid heartbeat. They’ll get clammy, you know, because their heart is racing,” says Rosemarie Truglio, the head of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop. “They’ll become tearful. That’s another sign. … Anxiety is about what’s going to be happening in the future. So there’s a lot of spinning in their head, which they’re not able to articulate.”
Rachel, of Belgrade, Mont., says her 6-year-old son really doesn’t want to swim or go to their local splash park.
We heard this from so many parents: My child is terrified to do something that I know won’t hurt them, that they might actually enjoy. What do I do?
Psychological Treatment For Ibs
Researchers at Wayne State University conducted a study in 2017 on a specialized form of talking therapy called Emotional Awareness and Expression Training , which helps people to recognize and express their emotions fully.
They compared the treatment to relaxation training and a control group of patients on a waiting list. Both the EAET and relaxation groups received three 50-minute training sessions delivered once a week.
At the end of the 10-week follow-up period 63% of the people in the EAET group reported significant improvements in their IBS symptoms compared to those in the relaxation and waiting list groups.
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Using The School Bathroom
Identify the childs concerns about using the school bathroom . Write a letter to the school indicating that, for health reasons, the child should be allowed to use the bathroom whenever necessary without waiting for a break. Often, the freedom to use the bathroom as needed reduces childrens anxiety, and they only rarely use the bathroom outside regularly scheduled times.
Common Causes Of Stomach Aches
The term stomach ache’ is used to cover any and all types of pain experienced in the abdominal area – but anyone who has suffered a stomach ache knows that one stomach ache can be quite different from another. Not only can a stomach ache occur high up under the ribs or down low in the guts, but it can also be experienced as cramps and gurgling or sharp and stitch-like.
Understanding what causes the different types of stomach aches will help you give your child comfort and ease their pain.
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How To Help Kids With Anxiety
Parents have an important and essential role in helping children deal with anxiety disorders. One of the vital ways that parents can be instrumental in reducing a childs anxiety is by not inadvertently reinforcing it. Childrens natural response to anxiety is to rely on parents for help and that is a normal way that human beings respond to fear or anxiety when they are young, Lebowitz explains While an adult might respond to fear primarily with self-defense, the fight or flight response, children dont have that capacity. They are programmed to respond to fear by signaling their parent so that the parent can protect and soothe the child until the perceived danger has passed, says Lebowitz. Parents, in turn, are naturally hardwired to detect cues of fear in their children and to step in to provide that protection and emotional regulation, he says.
However, a child with an anxiety disorder experiences anxiety even when the situations or circumstances dont warrant that heightened response. And what that happens the parent responds to the childs distress through accommodation, explains Lebowitz. What that means is that to help the child, the parent responds differently to the situation than they normally would.
Why Does The Stomach Feel Stress
Stress impacts the gut because each person has a hard wired connection between the brain in the head and the nervous system housed within the GI tract called the enteric nervous system, Chey says. The enteric nervous system lives within the wall of the GI tract and communicates through the spinal cord with the brain. While the enteric nervous system typically runs the GI tract independently, the brain can influence how it behaves. In times of stress, it may send a distress signal that makes the GI system run differently. In addition, stress makes the nerves in the gut overly sensitive so things that normally arent even perceived at a conscious level are perceived as unpleasant gut symptoms.
Everybody knows somebody that during high school before a big exam or an athletic event would have to run to the bathroom, Chey says. It happens because of the impact of stress or anxiety in the GI tract.
Difficulty Separating From Parent
In some families, the child and one parent have developed a pattern of morning interaction that escalates distress for both of them. For example, the child may cry and cling to the parent and the parent, in turn, may be overcome with concern for the child, causing the child to become even more distressed and unsure about his/her ability to attend school. If the child has particular difficulty separating from one parent in the morning, involve the other parent in taking the child to school. The parent who previously has been less involved in the morning distress may be more matter-of-fact at the time of separation, implicitly communicating greater confidence in the childs ability to cope at school.
How Emotions Affect Our Body
Why do our feelings sometimes make us sick?
Our lives are filled with emotions, from anger to shame, fear to delight, says Tracy A. Dennis, PhD, associate professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College, the City University of New York.
These physiological and neuroendocrine changes associated with emotion influence all aspects of our body, including the digestive system, Dennis tells WebMD. These physical responses can start and stop quite suddenly and be very intense.
Dennis says its the intensity of emotions that can send our body into overdrive, producing immediate gastrointestinal distress stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
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Could It Be Gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis, or more commonly known as stomach flu’ or stomach bug’, occurs after a viral or bacterial infection. The stomach aches that come with gastro are usually connected to vomiting and/or diarrhoea so can involve bad abdominal cramping and sharp pain up under the ribs due to the spasming that occurs with bouts of vomiting. The best ways to ease the tummy aches that come with gastro are by offering small sips of clear fluids, plenty of rest and paracetamol for the pain.