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Kids With Anxiety Often Complain of Stomach Pains and Headaches

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Kids with anxiety can be a real challenge for parents to recognize. As you would expect, the biggest reason may be that children don’t yet have the ability to fully express themselves verbally.

Kids with Anxiety - the symptoms

They’re unable to say to you, “Going to the playground today is causing me some anxiety, so I don’t want to go.”

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The 2018 Children’s Mental Health Report concludes that “at some point, anxiety affects 30% of children and adolescents, yet 80% never get help.”

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“Untreated anxiety disorders are linked to depression, school failure and a two-fold increase in risk for substance use disorder,” the report says. It’s what is known as “a gateway disorder.”

That can (and should be) 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 Kids
Note: Before you attribute your child’s physical symptoms to anxiety, be sure to have a checkup with your doctor to rule out any medical problems.
Physical symptoms
If 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. It’s 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.”

Muscle Aches – This could sound like, “My legs hurt,” or “I don’t feel good all over.”
Avoidance
When a child is anxious about a situation, they may simply avoid any activity or place that triggers the feeling.

For example, if they’re afraid of a certain dog, they’ll do everything they can to avoid the dog.
Angry Outbursts

The emotion that’s sometimes easiest for kids to express is anger. An explosive outburst could mean that they’re feelings are too big and too intense for them to express any other way.

If you ask them why they’re angry, they really may not know. They just feel angry.

Obstinance

If you’ve ever tried to get a kiddo to do something they don’t want to do, you know how frustrating it can be.

When they absolutely refuse to do what you ask, anxiety could be behind their stubbornness.

Nope! I am not going to put on my shoes because I know shoes on means you are about to take me to daycare and that makes me feel nervous.

Shyness

Hiding behind Mom or bowing their head and staring at the ground may be something you should take a look at.

The report says that children who are in extreme distress are dismissed as shy and expected to “grow out of it.”
What To Do Next

All this information may feel completely overwhelming for parents because we’ve all seen these behaviors in our kids, right?

The good news is that anxiety in kids is treatable and there is help.

First, if you suspect your child is struggling with anxiety, have a conversation with their pediatrician about next steps. They can point you in the direction of folks who have experience helping kids.

You’ll also find some great tips for concerned parents on ChildMind.org. It’s worth your time to read because it will tell you some specific ways you can start to help your child right away.

You may also want to check out a book called What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What-to-Do Guides for Kids).

It’s a Gold NAPPA (National Parenting Publications Awards) winner and parents across the world are using it with real success.

In closing, recognize that you are a good parent for wanting to better understand your child’s feelings. Good for you for choosing to dig a little deeper into the things your kiddo does to make sure there isn’t a larger problem hiding there.

Do you have a child who suffers from anxiety? How did you recognize it? What do you do to help?

If you are going through this, sharing ideas and experiences can help. It would be great if you’d share your insight or questions in the comments. We’d love to know what you have to say.

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14 comments

  1. My youngest all of a sudden developed anxiety. It was after she had been sick. The book Hey Warrior was recommended and it is AWESOME! Turns the natural response into something positive that you can control. It’s based on the brain responses leading to physical reactions. It’s helped us tremendously. 

  2. Therapy is a big key to unlocking the answers to your child’s anxiety. It not only with helping your child understand their anxiety but also teaches you how to help. Remember that there is no cure for anxiety or depression, there are just best ways to live with it. Some things that work for us:
    1. Yoga breathing ( take 10 seconds to breathe in and 10 seconds to breath out)
    2. Distraction (redirecting her to think of so,etching else besides her anxiety)
    3. Telling her that she will get through this and we will work together ( dismissing her feelings or say to get over it will only make her feels worse)

    We are 4 years living with my daughter’s anxiety and it’s getting better. Two steps forward and sometimes one step back. 🙂

  3. I had this very thing has a child. The only thing that calmed me down was pure lavender oil on a sweat wrist band or on my pillow it helped my attacks as a child.

  4. My 8 year old son often complains about a headache, soar stomach or muscles.
    I have know its anxiety, i suffered the same as a child. Ita ffecting his education and im at a loss s tp how to help. Please give me some insight on how to help him. It breaks my heart

    • Hi Stephanie, my 8 year old son is experiencing this too. It particularly seems to be related to school, although he can be reluctant to go out and do anything, but is fine once he is out and about. We have spoken with school and they are being wonderful in helping us. It came to a head one morning when I burst into tears in reception after taking 50minutes to get him into school. As painful as it was, I am glad I did as things are slowly improving, but a Monday morning is always especially hard. Having the teachers and head on board to support has been really reassuring and felt like we can share the load a little.  Getting him to go to sleep is always a lengthy challenge, we use tiger balm as soothing smell massaged into temples and I also massaged his feet one night as he started saying they hurt in a certain point & when I googled after it was the reflexology point for the stomaxh. That was only earlier this week, but since then he hasn’t complained of tummy ache! Hope that helps and if nothing else you are not alone

      • Amy as someone who’s parents never payed attention to their anxiety, I just want to say thank you for taking care of your childs anxiety and paying attention to it, I almost teared up reading your comment. You are such a good mother

    • Interesting… do you know Magnesium is beneficial for anxiety, headaches and stomach issues. Look into helping yourself through your own knowledge ❤

  5. My son is 5. He’s had a ton of medical issues. As a baby he had: PLAGIOCEPHALLY, TORTICOLLIS AND HOSPITALIZED FOR A WEEK DX: SEVERE G.E.R.D. As he’s gotten a little older he has A.D.H.D, severe Sensory Disorder, Autism, anxiety, Aggression (He has destroyed4 big screen t.v.’s, 3 lap pads and 3 cell phones) and only sleeps 1-3 hours a night. His brain doesn’t shut down to rest or re-set. He feels no pain, heat or cold. I am scared every day that something will happen to him and I won’t know whats wrong.

    • Jeannie, listen to Broken Brain Mark Hyman. Do you use essential oils? Connect on Facebook @ Monica Theresa Vitale Styles. EOs are great supporting your body in so many ways.

  6. O my gosh, this is my 8yr old daughter exactly!! We just went to the doctor last week because she’s been having headaches, tummy pain, her grades are slipping, she’s biting her nails all the time, she is very antsy….when she is sitting, she is constantly swinging her legs, her back ……
    The doctor told me she might have ADD… Attention Deficit Disorder.

  7. Interesting… do you know Magnesium is beneficial for anxiety, headaches and stomach issues. Look into helping yourself through your own knowledge ❤

  8. I have to thank you so so much, this really opened my eyes. When I first read it earlier this month, it really made me think about how much my son and been stressing out and complaining of these pains, but I figured we would wait and see if it got better. Then last week the shaking and peeing himself when he thought he wasn’t in trouble started, and thanks to this article, I thought I had a pretty reasonable concern to take him to the doctor. We start counseling next week to find out how to help him. Without this article I might not have put my finger on his problem so fast, and the damage to his poor little feelings may have be much greater. My sons life will greatly improve thanks to this article. I can never thank you enough.

  9. My 10 year old daughter is showing all the signs mentioned we both recently found out my husband her dad had been having an affair n lied to us both for months this as affected her so much at home and at school as anyone got any advice on what to do n how to help her xx

  10. I knew my son has had Anxiety for some time . It seems to be a trending issue amongst 8 yr olds i felt as though i was the only parent trying desperately ro help…. As he struggles to keep up now with academics when (he has never had a trouble before) due to missing school…. Its hard as a parent to find that fine line between letting stay home in the “safe” zone and making them attend only to get a call an hour or so later from the office or worse hearing at the end of the day he was sent straight back to class and told to “suck it up”. The struggle is real to anyone whos had or has a child suffering from Anxiety. I wrote down the tips and advice and will be looking into all the books mentioned and more. A big thank you to everyone…. And keep up the good work Mommas!!