A child with an anxiety disorder

There are more and more children with a disorder at school. This is a problem for the teacher, the parents and the child itself that they have to learn to deal with. One of the most common disorders is fear of failure. But there are various forms of fear (real or imagined) that limit normal functioning. Eleven forms of anxiety disorders are recognized, which may or may not be accompanied by a panic attack, a phobia or stress. Panic and agoraphobia cannot be diagnosed by themselves.


  • Fear of situations where escape is difficult or embarrassing or where help is not available. Examples include: being alone outdoors, in a crowd of people or traveling by train/bus.
  • Certain situations are avoided or endured only with fear of panic or with the presence of a supervisor.
  • The fear cannot be attributed to another psychological disorder, such as social phobia.


Social phobia

  • There is clear and persistent fear of situations in which one has to function socially or achieve something. One is exposed to strangers or possible critical assessment by others.
  • Ending up in the feared situation leads to anxiety that can manifest itself in a panic attack.
  • The person is aware that the fear is exaggerated or unreasonable. Please note: this is not always the case with children.
  • The feared situation is avoided or endured with fear.
  • The avoidance hinders actions in daily life.
  • The duration is at least six months for people under the age of 18.
  • The fear is not the result of a general medical condition or another psychological disorder or of the physiological effects of a substance. This includes medicines or drugs.


Panic Attack

A panic attack occurs when four or more symptoms develop within a limited period of intense fear or discomfort and reach a maximum within ten minutes.
Observable characteristics are:

  • Palpitations
  • To cry
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Freeze
  • Perspire
  • Shaking/shaking
  • Feeling of shortness of breath/suffocation
  • Pain in the chest
  • Nausea/stomach complaints
  • Dizziness
  • Hyperventilation
  • Fear of losing self-control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Numb/tingling feeling
  • Hot flashes/chills

School phobia can also occur in children . This is not mentioned separately because it is seen as a manifestation of an anxiety disorder. The definition of a school phobia is that the child has a reluctance to go to school. Possible factors for this are:

  • Fear of the school building, the teacher or students (social anxiety)
  • Fear of leaving home (separation anxiety)
  • Own physical illness, so that there is an excuse not to go to school
  • The family situation

You can recognize a child with an anxiety disorder by the following behavior:

  • Avoidance behavior
  • Tension, pressure in the head and less energy for physical activities
  • Hyperventilation
  • Compulsions


Didactic comments

A child with an anxiety disorder requires a different approach from the teacher. It is important not to want too much from the student, without patronizing.
For adjustments in the learning material, it is important that the child is given short and clear tasks that are achievable. Use simple language and provide a soothing and safe environment.
Start from the child’s strengths. This is how you build self-confidence. You can think of a customized program so that you can ensure success experiences.
Distracting activities can make you forget your anxiety for a while and bring you relaxation. This way you can ensure that the child enjoys school again.

Pedagogical notes

It is important for the child that the teacher appears calm, friendly and neutral. Avoid criticism and punishment that may come across as threatening. When a child is calm again, you can return to this if necessary.
When approaching the child, it is important that you acknowledge the fear, give compliments to promote self-confidence and give an immediate answer.

Tips for at home

Fear can be limited by an orderly and predictable environment in which fear can be discussed. This is how you can reassure a child.
You can think of fixed times when you eat, shower and go to bed. It is also important that it is clear to the child what is and is not allowed and what expectations one has.
It is also advisable to consider to what extent the child’s time management can reduce his anxiety. Certain programs, films or computer games are not soothing or anxiety-reducing. Encourage child-friendly programs.
It is important to look at how fear was overcome in earlier moments. Maybe it will work the same way next time. Positive previous experiences can provide a solution in future cases.

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