Various disorders and illnesses can cause symptoms similar to those of an anxiety disorder. Some of these illnesses are serious, so it’s a good idea to talk to your pediatrician. Let me start by saying this: If your child (or student) is prone to anxiety, don’t tell him that it may be caused by a dangerous medical condition! You might be thinking aloud and benignly mumble “I wonder if it’s your thyroid.” Ask yourself: does your child (or student) know what a thyroid is? Does your child know that a thyroid problem is manageable and not going to kill her? When you’re already anxious, anything that sounds like danger can trigger full panic. If you drop some medical terminology or even an unfamiliar anatomy word, explain that there’s nothing to worry about. If you are worried (say, about your child’s heart), be extra calm and keep your fears to yourself.
Even if your child’s anxiety is a symptom of an anxiety disorder and not any other medical condition, illness can be an anxiety trigger. Respiratory symptoms may inspire fears of suffocation. Shivers from a fever might remind your child of the shivers he experiences with panic attacks, and that might be enough to cause panic. If your anxious child is ill, watch for signs of panic, and explicitly remind your child that his symptoms are the result of a harmless virus (or whatever’s causing his illness) and nothing more.