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Why Children Don’t Say They Have Anxiety but Say, “My Stomach Hurts”

30% of 10,000 children who were interviewed developed an anxiety disorder sometime before they were 18, according to a study. And 80% of them didn’t get any treatment. There are many reasons this can happen and one of them is simply not recognizing that your child has anxiety. For example, it can be confused with an ordinary stomachache and treated as such.

We at Bright Side hope that you’ll be able to recognize when your child has anxiety and help them deal with it. And here’s why your child might say they have a stomachache when they feel anxious.

Children can have anxiety, but might not know what it is.

Children say their stomach hurts when they have anxiety because it really does hurt. That’s how anxiety or stress can manifest itself. These symptoms are a way your body shows you there’s a threat that you have to deal with. And since children might not really understand what’s going on with them emotionally, they only tell their parents what they’re experiencing physically.

There are other signs your child might have anxiety.

  • They’re hard on themselves. They strive for perfection and if they think they can’t do something well, they ask for a parent to do it. They might also apologize or seek your approval and reassurance often.
  • They aren’t hungry because anxiety slows down digestion.
  • They might feel tired but have difficulty falling asleep.
  • Headaches, feeling hot, difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, and chills could all be signs of an anxiety attack.
  • They might be irritable, cry, and throw tantrums.
  • They refuse to go to school or socialize with peers.
  • They might be restless and unable to focus.
  • They constantly worry. They ask questions like, “What if...?” and worry about things that are far in the future. They might also have certain fears like a disaster happening or losing a parent.
  • They might be sensitive and take things personally.
  • They’re clingy and don’t like to be left alone.

Things that can cause anxiety

It’s common for children from 6 months to 3 years old to have separation anxiety. They might become clingy and cry when their parent leaves, so being dropped off at school or kindergarten is hard for them.

Preschool children can also develop certain fears of things like animals, insects, natural disasters, blood, and the dark.

Other situations that can cause anxiety in children are social interactions, being transferred to a new school, or stress before a test or an exam.

Have you noticed any of these signs in your child? What makes your kid feel anxious? How do you deal with it? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Please note: This article was updated in March 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
Bright Side/Family & kids/Why Children Don’t Say They Have Anxiety but Say, “My Stomach Hurts”
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