Recognizing Anxiety in the Classroom

The thing about kids who feel anxious is that they don’t always look or act how we expect them to! Anxiety can take on lots of forms and behavioral manifestations in the classroom. Keep reading for ways to recognize anxiety in the classroom so that you and your teacher coworkers can best meet the needs of your students!

Get resources to help kids with anxiety here

Sometimes it's tough to recognize Anxiety in the Classroom! It can take on many forms, and some are unexpected.

Anxiety in the Classroom: What it Might Look Like

Signs of Anxiety

Some kids will display what we expect to see with anxiety. They’ll express worries or negative thinking patterns. They’ll jump to conclusions or express feelings of nervousness. They might be fidgety or hyperaroused. They might cry or show signs of separation anxiety from caregivers. But they might do none of that!

Other Signs of Anxiety

1 – Low frustration tolerance

Students may have a low tolerance for mistakes or for changes to the routine. Mistakes or missteps in assignments or speaking may throw them into a tailspin. They may value the predictability of the daily routine and become very upset when there are unexpected changes.

2 – Frequent questions

That student who always has their hand raised (or calls out) with questions? They could be feeling anxious. Wanting to know about what’s next or what might happen could be their way of seeking reassurance, stability, or comfort.

3 – Wanting constant help or assistance

Students who want the teacher right beside them the whole time they are working may be dealing with anxiety (or low confidence). They could be seeking reassurance or trying to avoid the discomfort of making a mistake. The same goes for students who always want to work with a partner. Sure, they could just be seeking social connections, but they might also be seeking comfort from having a peer they check work with.

4 – Frequent bathroom or nurse trips

Students who are seeking constant bathroom or nurse passes could also be dealing with anxiety. On the one hand, they could be trying to avoid uncomfortable tasks or situations that are causing anxiety. On the other hand, they could be experiencing physiological symptoms of anxiety like upset stomach or frequent need to use the restroom.

5- Quiet compliance

The student who is quiet and follows the rules all the time might simply be quiet and following the rules. But they might also be feeling anxious! They might not want to speak up and they are anxious about what might happen if they are in any way non-compliant. Does quiet compliance always equal anxiety? Of course not, but it’s sometimes to keep in mind.

6 – High achievement & perfectionistic tendencies

Perfectionistic tendencies are often attributed to anxiety, and this may be the case for our students as well. Our high achievers might also have some feelings of anxiety. What might happen if they don’t achieve high?!

Anxiety in the Classroom

As school counselors, we obviously aren’t diagnosing our students. And any one or two of these behavioral signs is not plainly indicative of an anxiety disorder. But it’s important to be mindful of what we’re seeing from our students in the classroom so that we can teach skills and offer accommodations as needed to best support their needs!

Sometimes it's tough to recognize Anxiety in the Classroom! It can take on many forms, and some are unexpected.
Sometimes it's tough to recognize Anxiety in the Classroom! It can take on many forms, and some are unexpected. Tips for seeing signs of anxiety in kids, anxiety at school, and anxiety in the classroom.

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