Social Anxiety vs Separation Anxiety In Children

Parents often find that they are their child’s only advocate when the ills of anxiety become reality. Its symptoms played out in behaviors, and to the unknowing parent can be frustrating, leading to “little t” trauma, and a harder road for their child. It is important for parents to educate themselves on the different types of anxiety. We covered Generalized Anxiety Disorder in the blog before this one.

Anxiety in general has similar symptoms, the real task is diagnosing the type of anxiety, while treatment is similar, the approach may be different. Many parents find themselves confused and frustrated with their clingy children, ofter ascribing their actions as difficult behaviors. Left untreated, anxiety in children has proven to morph into other disorders like major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, Bi-Polar as well as other disorders than can be prevented with treatment in childhood. When considering the importance of this, remember the importance of caring for a developing brain. Your decisions as a parent will affect their mental health, so educating yourself is vital.

So, which type does your child have? The huge difference between these two type are simple, because as you will see, these two look a lot like each other.

A social anxiety diagnosis requires symptoms to present themselves among peers, not just adults.

Let’s consider social anxiety disorder first.

“Social anxiety disorder is a kind of anxiety that can cause children extreme worry about being rejected or judged negatively by other people. Children with social anxiety disorder aren’t just shy. They are so scared of being embarrassed that they avoid doing things they want or need to do. For example, they might refuse to go to birthday parties or speak in class or eat at a restaurant because they are afraid of what others might think of them.” [1]

Children with social anxiety disorder will most likely struggle in school. Children with this type of anxiety disorder often will refuse to go to school, often frustrating parents who unknowingly punish their children because their intense fear will present as undesirable behavior. Other children will attempt to hide their fear and parents may observe the following behaviors:

  • Physical symptoms, like shaking, sweating and shortness of breath 
  • Lots of anxious questions: “What if I say something dumb?” “What if everyone thinks I’m a loser?” 
  • Tantrums and crying, especially in younger children 
  • Getting upset long before they have to be in the situation they’re afraid of  [1]

Social anxiety must be treated regardless of age. In addition to medication, parents are encouraged to find a good therapist who specializes in children. Left untreated, other disorders will follow. However, treatment is effective and children can and do live normal lives. Awareness and treatment are essential.

Separation anxiety is the same in that left untreated this disorder can morph into Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Most the time, with separation anxiety symptoms are only exhibit themselves when they are around adults, particularly their primary caretaker, most notable their mother.

According the Mayo Clinic, here are the symptoms of separation anxiety:

  • Recurrent and excessive distress about anticipating or being away from home or loved ones
  • Constant, excessive worry about losing a parent or other loved one to an illness or a disaster
  • Constant worry that something bad will happen, such as being lost or kidnapped, causing separation from parents or other loved ones
  • Refusing to be away from home because of fear of separation
  • Not wanting to be home alone and without a parent or other loved one in the house
  • Reluctance or refusing to sleep away from home without a parent or other loved one nearby
  • Repeated nightmares about separation
  • Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches or other symptoms when separation from a parent or other loved one is anticipated

Unlike Social Anxiety, there are some identifiable risk factors:

  • Life stresses or loss that result in separation, such as the illness or death of a loved one, loss of a beloved pet, divorce of parents, or moving or going away to school
  • Certain temperaments, which are more prone to anxiety disorders than others are
  • Family history, including blood relatives who have problems with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, indicating that those traits could be inherited
  • Environmental issues, such as experiencing some type of disaster that involves separation
  • Seek professional advice as soon as possible if you’re concerned that your child’s anxiety is much worse than a normal developmental stage. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce symptoms and prevent the disorder from getting worse.
  • Stick with the treatment plan to help prevent relapses or worsening of symptoms.
  • Seek professional treatment if you have anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns, so that you can model healthy coping skills for your child.

Just as with Separation Anxiety, left untreated, Separation Anxiety will lead to more severe diagnoses like Bi-Polar, Borderline Personality Disorder, and many others. Treatment is Behavioral therapy as well as effective medications will help parents navigate the waters of anxiety. There is hope and there is help! There is hope. Keep it here for more content on anxiety in children.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s