Choose a language:

Anxiety In Children At School

Jordan Westfall, LPC-IT

Anxiety is very prevalent in children and adolescents. The National Institute for Mental Health estimates a 25.1 percentage between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. There is also a lifetime prevalence of 5.9 percent for severe anxiety disorder in children and adolescents. Anxiety can be incredibly difficult to navigate for children and adolescents in the school setting. It can be hard to notice at times as well, as the symptoms of anxiety can be mistaken for other learning disorders or ADHD. Some symptoms that a child or adolescent may experience at school include restlessness or inability to focus while in class, lack of motivation to complete tasks because they are looking for perfection, or being frozen in place when called on. Anxiety is seen in children physically as well with stomach aches, headaches, or trouble breathing (Egolf and Markin, 2022). There are several types of anxiety seen in children such as social anxiety, separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, and specific phobias. These can lead to attendance concerns, disruptive behavior, and inattention. Specifically, disruptive behavior in the classroom is caused by children feeling upset or threatened and not knowing how to appropriately handle or cope with those feelings. Inattention is also common, especially when the teacher is looking to call on an anxious child. The child will disconnect themselves in whatever way possible in order to avoid interaction. Avoidance of group work or socializing with peers is also common, and this is out of fear that they will be judged by their peers or make a significant mistake. Children and adolescents with anxiety may ask to stay home from school frequently, which is a part of the avoidance piece as well. This could be because they want to stay home with a caregiver indicating separation anxiety, or they are avoiding school altogether as it is a social setting indicating social anxiety. Having a child or adolescent examined by their primary care provider to understand recurrent physical symptoms to rule out medical concerns is recommended (Kruger, 2021). If the child is healthy physically or no significant medical concerns are present, consulting with a mental health clinician can be the next step. Therapy for the child or adolescent can teach them to be aware of their feelings and acknowledge when they come up in multiple settings, especially school. Mental health clinicians can explore and provide children and adolescents with appropriate skills and techniques to handle stressful or anxiety-inducing situations at school. It is important to remember that school anxiety is individualistic to the child and their concerns, and creating a supportive environment for the child to implement and practice their skills and openly discuss their feelings/worries while being validated can be incredibly beneficial to their success in school!


For more on school anxiety in children and adolescents, you can visit these resources below!