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Psychiatry, psychosomatics & psychotherapy

Signs of pronounced fears of children

Because fearful children are often calm, adjusted, and obedient, eager to please and not cause problems, their problems are often overlooked. However, various abnormalities can indicate that child fears have assumed a problematic extent and should first be taken away.

While the fears mentioned under “norm-compliant fears” (table) are common among many children in the corresponding age groups, the considerable extent of the fear or the persistence beyond the upper age limit can lead to problems in individual cases. For example, dog fear can prevent a child from leaving the house. Some children with high levels of anxiety are afraid to make friends or talk to someone and usually have few friends outside of the family. Others think a lot about something before it happens or always worry about school, their friendships, and leisure activities. Anxious children are often tense or nervous internally. Some of them need a lot of reassurance, and their worries get in the way of their activities or keep them from trying something new.

In addition to psychological symptoms, various physical complaints can arise, such as chronic states of tension (muscle tension, inability to relax, headache, joint pain, other painful conditions), vegetative overexcitability (nausea, loss of appetite, upper abdominal discomfort, sweating, dizziness, frequent urination, diarrhea), nervousness and Difficulty concentrating. Sleep disorders, tiredness, exhaustion and irritability can also appear as symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

Parents should have the following behavioral problems that persist or recur over several weeks from a child and adolescent psychiatrist:

  • Intense fears - constant fears and worries, nervousness, difficulty concentrating;
  • motor tension - restlessness, tremors, muscle tension; Joint pain, headache;
  • physical over-excitability - nausea, sweating, dizziness, racing heart, frequent urination, diarrhea, dry mouth etc. in certain situations;
  • pronounced separation fears - unrealistic thoughts about possible harm within the family, child cannot separate from caregiver;
  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, restless or poor sleep.

Parents should pay attention to these signs of great anxiety and possible physical symptoms, take them seriously at any age and clarify how severe the problem is. If fears in childhood and adolescence severely and persistently affect everyday life and lead to problems in the family, in kindergarten, at school or in the leisure area, they should definitely be treated. If parents frequently observe fears and avoidance behaviors in their child, they should speak to a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Early treatment can prevent secondary problems such as loss of friendships, loss of social status or academic degree, and decreased self-esteem. Early preventative treatment can help prevent a chronic course of anxiety disorder. Psychotherapy (play therapy, individual therapy) and family therapy are available as treatment options. In individual cases, the symptoms are so pronounced that the child and adolescent psychiatrist also recommends taking certain medications.

Technical support: Prof. Dr. med. Johannes Hebebrand, Essen (DGKJP)