Children with anxiety can experience physical pain and discomfort as a part of their condition. In fact, bodily, or somatic, concerns are one of the most common characteristics in children with anxiety. As you read the next section, keep in mind that your child's complaints should be unrelated to sports or other injuries. The following complaints are among the most commonly experienced as an expression of underlying anxiety.
Aches and Pains
Aches and pains cover a relatively diffuse variety of physical sensations. They most typically include:
Tightness or tingling, most commonly in chest or extremities
Back and/or neck pain
If your child experiences more than one or two of the above more than once or twice a week, start with your family physician to rule out any underlying physical conditions that could be causing the discomfort. If a trusted physician rules out physical causes, it may be time to seek psychological help.
Studies show somatic complaints are strongly associated with physical disorders in girls and with disruptive behavior disorders in boys. Researchers found that stomachaches, headaches, and musculoskeletal pains were common with anxiety disorders in girls. For boys, stomachaches were associated with oppositional defiant disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
For many parents, the first indication of a child's anxiety involves one or more trips to the doctor to investigate digestive upsets. Referred to as gastrointestinal complaints, these symptoms are of several different types:
Indigestion or heartburn
Tandem breathing can be an effective distraction from body bugaboos. To start, sit side by side or hold your small child in your lap. Next, close your eyes. Pace your breathing together, matching your inhalations and exhalations. You can deliberately slow your own breathing and encourage your child to do the same. After a few minutes, stretch and return to your activity, noticing how much calmer you both feel.
Have you ever watched someone chew her fingernails, bounce her leg incessantly, twirl her hair, or snap chewing gum? These are all examples of nervous habits, which, interestingly enough, can cause onlookers to feel anxious or frustrated. Other nervous habits include knuckle-cracking, tapping fingers or objects, biting the lips, picking at the skin, or straightening clothing or other objects. Although most people have one or two nervous habits, in children these habits can go from distracting to debilitating if they are incessant and become a focus of teasing. Some children with anxiety can develop twitches or tics, which should be professionally evaluated to rule out concerns that are more serious.