If you remember your childhood, you probably recall feeling anxious, worried, or scared from time to time. You may have been afraid of the dark, of beasties beneath your bed, or of walking too far in your neighbourhood on your own. And who didn't get the occasional nervous tummy ache on the first day of school or before a dentist appointment?

Anxiety is a natural part of childhood that helps kids to learn to cope with and respond to the world around them. Children go through developmentally appropriate phases of anxiety. Babies, for instance, feel anxious around strangers, clinging more closely and more tightly to their parents when a new person is introduced. Toddlers often struggle through separation anxiety, while young children wrestle with imagined dangers like monsters or ghosts. As children get older, their anxieties reflect what's going on in their lives - test anxiety in school, fear of rejection by peers, social pressures, etc.

Like an adult, a child or teen can experience anxiety symptoms that become chronic, debilitating, and serious enough to require treatment. An estimated 1 in 8 children has an anxiety disorder. Genetics and parenting practices seem to factor in as causes of anxiety disorders, as kids whose parents have anxiety disorders are at a greater risk of developing one as well.

Unlike an adult, a child may not be able to voice their anxiety, reporting instead their physical symptoms - "My tummy hurts," or "My head hurts." But recognizing a child's anxiety symptoms is important because early intervention can help to prevent complications, including poor school performance, social anxiety, substance abuse, or co-occurring conditions like depression and eating disorders.

A child's anxiety symptoms will vary depending on which specific type of anxiety disorder he or she has. A child with generalized anxiety disorder, for instance, may worry constantly and be "perfectionists."

Anxiety may show itself in a range of different behaviours that can be polar opposites of each other. For example, an anxious child might present as shy, withdrawn, or cautious, while another child may "act out" their anxiety with temper tantrums and by being disobedient.

How anxiety is expressed among children may also vary depending on their developmental stage. For example, children who do not yet possess communication skills may be more likely to express their anxiety behaviourally, than by verbalizing or labelling their emotions. Children with panic disorder experience recurrent panic attacks, while a child with social anxiety disorder struggles with peer interaction.

Other types of anxiety disorders that affect children include phobias and selective mutism.

Often the first line of treatment for anxiety disorders in children and teens is cognitive-behavioural therapy. Children whose anxiety is more severe or is unresponsive to therapy may be prescribed anti-anxiety medications.

If you think that your child may be experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, speak to a pediatrician. Your child's doctor may need to rule out other possible causes of anxiety-like symptoms and can also make a referral to an age-appropriate therapist.