Help Us Help Others:

When stress builds up and begins to overwhelm a child, it can emerge as symptoms. Here are some of the common categories of stress symptoms seen among children:

A) Psychological and behavioral changes caused by stress

  • Increased moodiness and/or irritability
  • A sudden or unexplained increase in behavioral problems
  • Being overly anxious or fearful
  • Clinginess or separation anxiety
  • Slipping grades or problems in school
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • The emergence of ADHD-like behaviors, such as trouble following directions or greater distractibility
  • Nightmares
  • Withdrawing from others or losing interest in activities they used to enjoy.


B) Physical and psychosomatic stress symptoms
Stress can manifest itself in physical ways, often through what are known as “psychosomatic symptoms”–physical ailments brought on by stress. Here are some common physical signs of stress in children:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained stomach aches or headaches
  • Bedwetting
  • Disrupted sleep or changes in sleep patterns
  • Increased sensitivity to pain


C) Regression
Children under significant stress often show developmental regression, backsliding in terms of their maturity or capabilities. A potty-trained child might start having accidents, or a formerly independent school-age child may become needier and start demanding that others do things for her that she previously did on her own.

Regression is a way of retreating to safety. Adults may not realize it, but the everyday demands we place on children can be emotionally taxing. Independence and self-sufficiency are to a child what performing at an elite level is to an adult. Childhood itself involves always living at the upper edge of one’s capabilities, perpetually pushing into new territory. When kids are under a great deal of stress, they simply may not have enough mental reserves left over to sustain this growth, and so they backslide or regress in their development.

Stress symptoms in children by ages & stages

Signs and symptoms of stress can vary from ne age group to another. Here are some of the common ways stress may manifest itself among children of different ages:

Signs of stress in infants & toddlers

Infants and toddlers are pre-verbal, so they exhibit stress in rather primitive ways:

  • Increased crying
  • Changes in appetite
  • Showing sensitivity to loud noises
  • Regressing to infant behaviors
  • Trembling with fright
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Expressing anger through hitting, biting, or throwing things


Signs and symptoms of stress in preschoolers

Preschool children are far more sophisticated but still very baby-like in nature. Here are some of the typical ways they exhibit stress:

  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Irritability or angry moods
  • Fear of being alone
  • Excessive clinginess
  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Increased fits or tantrums
  • Trembling
  • Withdrawal into fantasy worlds
  • Becoming more accident prone
  • Bedwetting

Signs & symptoms of stress in elementary-school-age children

Grade school kids are pint-sized worry machines. They are more aware of the world and how it works, yet are still young enough to feel completely dependent and utterly helpless. Here are some of the unique ways that grade school kids deal with stress:

  • Expressing excessive worries for the future
  • Questioning adults or constantly seeking affirmation
  • Showing distrust toward others
  • Questioning whether they are loved
  • Neglecting school responsibilities
  • Lack of concentration
  • Withdrawing from friends
  • Sleep abnormalities or problems sleeping


Signs & symptoms of stress in teens

Adolescents experience stress in much the same way adults do. The difference is that teens are in the process of breaking away from family. They are trying to differentiate themselves and establish a more mature and independent identity. Therefore teens will typically try to disguise any stress they are feeling, pretending as though they are bullet proof and nothing can rattle them. Excessive stress at this age can complicate their development, since it tends to evoke all those dependant feelings they’re trying so hard to get away from.

Teens express stress through things like…

  • Extreme behavior at either end of the spectrum (suddenly becoming overly compliant and eager to please, or conversely growing defiant and breaking all the rules)
  • Rebellious or delinquent behavior
  • Challenging authority figures
  • Drinking or drug use
  • Risky behavior
  • Promiscuous sexuality
  • Skipping school
  • Spending a lot of time alone
  • Becoming more easily agitated most of the time
  • Cutting or self-injury.



Help Us Help Others: