Anxiety in Children and Adolescents
Alex, 15, describes what anxiety feels like:
I grew up in New York, the son of two loving parents. I played little league, I took piano lessons, and I was a good student. In the sixth grade I started feeling different. I began to believe that I would not be liked by anybody. I also began to be very nervous and panicky around people. Fear became a major part of my life. Fear I would say the wrong thing in front of friends and teachers or that I might somehow embarrass and humiliate myself. My desire to not let anyone see my nervousness became so dramatic that everything was pre-meditated. I gave great thought to things that others would find routine - how I moved from place to place, how I held a book or what I did with my hands.
I began to avoid anything that involved risk. If I wasn't doing anything, I couldn't screw up. If I was alone in my room, there was no risk involved and no fear of failure and embarrassment. I never dated, I never spoke with anyone on the phone if it wasn't about homework, and Saturday nights might be spent at a movie with a friend. That was the extent of my social life.
"Why are you so quiet? Why don't you like to go to parties? Why don't you have a girlfriend?" I would hear people say these things and I would become so angry that people had discovered I wasn't normal.
I found myself making excuses. The fact is, I really wanted to not be so quiet, to go to parties and to have a girlfriend, but I was too scared to risk failure. I began to believe that I was simply not meant to be a socially confident person and that everyone else was.
Some common signs:
- Difficulty going to, or staying in, school
- Afraid of being separated from parents
- Excessive worrying
- Trouble concentrating
- Extreme shyness of self-consciousness
- Frequent physical complaints-headaches or stomachaches
- Avoids specific places or situations
- Cries easily
- Lacks energy or interest in age-appropriate activities
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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