The present study examined children's perception and interpretation of anxiety-related physical symptoms in a sample of 4-12-year-old primary school children (N=129). Children were presented with neutral scenarios in which the main character experienced an anxiety-related physical symptom (e.g., hands trembling, heart beating very fast), and asked to attribute various emotions to this character. Children were also interviewed about idiosyncratic experiences with anxiety-related physical symptoms. Results showed that physical symptoms were associated with a broad range of emotions. "Hands trembling", "heart beating fast", and "difficulties with breathing" were the only symptoms that were more frequently linked to fear than to other emotions. Furthermore, developmental patterns were found for fear-related interpretations of physical symptoms. That is, from the age of 7, children more frequently associated physical symptoms to fear. Finally, children reported to experience anxiety-related physical symptoms in daily life, although frequently not in relation to fearful situations and circumstances.

Anxiety-related physical symptoms, Children, Perception and interpretation
dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2004.03.008, hdl.handle.net/1765/62332
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry: a journal of experimental psychopathology
Department of Psychology

Muris, P.E.H.M, Hoeve, I, Meesters, C.M.G, & Mayer, B.N. (2004). Children's perception and interpretation of anxiety-related physical symptoms. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry: a journal of experimental psychopathology, 35(3), 233–244. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2004.03.008