In the very youngest of children, identifying and diagnosing mental health issues is difficult. Toddlers are developing and growing incredibly quickly at this stage of life and many things can affect their moods, emotions, and thinking. Worries and fears are to be expected in babies, toddlers, and children of all ages. There is, of course, a point at which those worries and fears become more than expected and may be an anxiety problem.
Anxiety disorders are common in children, studies have estimated they are present in 10-30% of children. This includes anxiety problems like panic disorder, phobias (fears of specific things), general anxiety disorders, and other diagnoses.
What causes anxiety disorders? There is no clear single answer. Basically, a combination of genetics, temperament, psychology, and social/environmental factors come into play.
So how do we identify anxiety in toddlers? Generally, toddlers who are “behaviorally inhibited” have a higher likelihood of having anxiety disorders. Behaviorally inhibited toddlers are sensitive to new people, sights, sounds, and situations and may want to get away from them or hide from them. Behaviorally inhibited children have, for example, 4 times the likelihood of having social anxiety disorder. Keep in mind, though, that many behaviorally inhibited children do not develop anxiety disorders.
If you are concerned about your toddler being overly “shy”, sensitive to new people/things, fearful, not sleeping well, or worried, please contact us and we can discuss it and see if it is something to be concerned about.