Well into my twenties, I was finally diagnosed with anxiety. In reality, I'd been struggling with it for as long as I can remember. The tell-tale signs were glaring in retrospect. I had nervous tics and constantly twisted strands of my hair in my fingers. At one point, I developed what I can only self-diagnose as OCD. I became terrified that germs on my hands were going to kill me, so I washed them incessantly. If they got even a little dirty, I absolutely had to interrupt my activity, go scrub them with a nail brush and Dial soap to my elbows, and then go back. This repetitive activity seemed quirky and harmless - until the skin on the backs of my hands started to peel off. I bled everywhere. My mom coated my hands in vaseline, covered them in sandwich baggies, and then covered those bags with socks. That way I couldn't scratch what skin I had left in my sleep.
After my daughter was born, I spiraled into a pretty gnarly case of PPA (post-partum anxiety). Again, hindsight is 20/20: I was definitely suffering from crippling anxiety months before she was born. I sometimes feel that I was robbed of Rory's baby months. They certainly were significantly more grim than the months I spent in pure elation after my son was born. Now that I'm finally Old Enough Age, I recognize that I've been living with an anxiety disorder for most of my life. And I know that certain mental health issues are hereditary. I don't want my kids to suffer needlessly and without support (like I did), so I'm keeping a close eye on them. From my research, there are specific telltale signs that your tot is feeling more anxious than they ought to.
While it can be pretty normal for kids to go through phases where they're afraid of things like bugs, the dark, or even disappearing down the tub drain- those phobias can also be a sign of anxiety.
Toddlers that have trouble going to sleep on their own, or wake up scared from bad dreams, maybe struggling with anxiety. That worry can manifest itself in unsettling ways that make it hard to relax into sleep at bedtime.
Sometimes, anxious kids can be slow to warm up to new people. This isn't necessarily a detrimental behavior, but it can make meeting new people or making friends a bit more difficult for them.
If your child is easily bothered by the clothes they wear, it may be a sign that they're dealing with anxious feelings. Little things like the toe seam on a sock might just be too much to handle. Their brain is already hard at work dealing with other worries.
While some of these signs of anxiety are toddler-specific, this one bleeds into adulthood anxiety disorders. People who feel like their life is out of control and worrisome often try to exert control over certain areas of their lives. It's a coping mechanism; while it can be helpful, it can also go overboard.
Stage Five Clinger
Kiddos who have severe separation anxiety will cling to their parents 24/7. They'll even follow their mom or dad around from room to room. This kind of closeness can be endearing, but it's sometimes a sign that your kiddo is worried something might happen to you or them if you're apart.
Unfortunately, I see many of these signs in my own toddler. I don't think he struggles with severe anxiety, but I do notice that times of stress can trigger some of these behaviors to kick into overdrive. My mama heart hurts for him. Knowing is the first step, right? I'll cover the next steps for treating toddler anxiety in a future piece.
Do you have anxiety? Have you passed it on to your kid, or do you worry you might? Solidarity, friend. Connect with me on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 and I promise to support you with judgement. <3