Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions in America. Unfortunately, it’s the most overlooked and undiagnosed one as well.
Many people try to ignore the uncomfortable feelings, attempting to carry on with their day as normal. As problematic as this sounds in an adults life, it can cause even more issues in the life of a child.
Unsurprisingly, middle school children who struggle with anxiety manifest some of the same coping mechanisms as adults—with a slight twist, of course.
If you’ve noticed a change in your middle schooler’s behavior, perhaps it’s time to translate those observations. For starters, here are five red flags to help you identify if your child is dealing with anxiety.
1. Uncharacteristic Outbursts
Middle schoolers with anxiety often act out in ways abnormal for them. It’s not uncommon for them to be highly reactive—anger and aggression are common themes.
For example, they may answer a simple question with intense emotions. Some parents are even caught off guard at their middle schooler’s unusual response but attribute it to a tween phase.
Remember, though, that angry, aggressive, and intense emotional reactions may be a sign of a deeper issue.
2. Fidgety or Distracted Behavior
With the world at your middle schooler’s fingertips, a little distraction is going to happen now and then. However, when your child’s teacher begins to report to you about them not paying attention or having a difficult time focusing, attend to that red flag.
Additionally, anxiety and stress are often displayed in sleeping patterns. Has your child experienced difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep lately? Poor and restless sleep adds to overall restlessness and hyperactivity during the day.
Distracted and fidgety behaviors are a clue that your middle schooler may be suffering from anxiety.
3. Unexplained Aches and Pains
Has your daughter or son complained about back, shoulder, or neck pain recently?
As you may know, stress and anxiety tend to manifest themselves in physical ways. It’s almost as if the negative vibes become trapped in your body, causing aches and pains.
Of course, many things could cause aches and pains in your middle schooler’s life—sports, rough play, sleeping positions, etc. But you know your child best. Therefore, pay attention when an ache or pain makes no sense other than the source being anxiety.
4. Mentally “Checking Out”
As a parent, you’ve probably experienced days where you simply couldn’t make your memory work. Perhaps you put the milk in the cabinet or forgot to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer. These little slip-ups happen sometimes.
Yet, when your middle schooler forgets important things such as a big test or a field trip, it’s a cause for concern. That’s because when middle schoolers suffer from anxiety, they often “check out,” mentally speaking. It’s almost as if they push the information overload (stress) out of their minds. With it go the important bits of information as well.
If you spot this red flag, it’s time to dig a little deeper into what’s really going on.
5. Disinterest in Previously Enjoyed Activities
Have you ever “zoned out” in front of Netflix after a really tough day at work or being a stay-at-home parent? If so, then you’re familiar with how your brain can take a mini-vacation from all the stress.
Your middle schooler may do something similar in an attempt to cope with their anxiety.
In addition to watching TV or playing on their phone, they may become uninterested in other activities in their life. For example, they may want to drop out of the chess club, skip more and more dance lessons, or even forgo time with their friends. These can all be red flags leading back to anxiety.
Dealing with anxiety can be very distressing for a middle school-aged child. We would like to help your child feel better, instilling healthy strategies to manage their anxiety. Therefore, if you’ve spotted any of the above red flags, please contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation.