Anxiety Disorders In Children And Adolescents


Children and adolescents can become anxious, and experience worries or fear when a severe situation calls for it. These are common feelings when faced with uncertainty or discomfort. But some children or even adolescents have an overwhelming fear or anxiety that makes it difficult for them to deal with from day to day. With modern knowledge, anxiety disorders can now be treated. “If your anxiety feels overwhelming or difficult to manage, consider seeking mental health services, as professional treatment for anxiety can be very effective for many people,” suggests Jennifer Sweeton Psy.D.

How Prevalent Are Anxiety Disorders In Children And Adolescents?

It is normal to feel anxious before an upcoming test in school. It is also reasonable to feel afraid when left alone for a little while. But excess fear and anxiety in children could mean something else. Children who experience these overwhelming feelings cannot move forward and always feel scared and anxious if something new arises. Even with comfort and reassurance, they tend not to feel any better.

All anxiety-related problems share four common features:

  • Anxiety is often an unexplainable feeling of fear that interferes with the child’s ability to enjoy life. They also have a hard time finishing daily routines for fear of not going to be able to do it even though they have not tried yet.
  • Anxiety is as confusing to the child as it is to his/her parents.
  • Anxiety cannot be eliminated quickly and does not diminish after the logical explanation for anxiety defies logical thinking.
  • Anxiety is treatable.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

There are all sorts of anxiety; like general anxiety, separation anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsiveness, phobias, and panic attacks. These can cause distress and reduced levels of functioning in chidden and adolescents alike. Here are the symptoms of anxiety children may display:

  • feeling nervous or “on edge.”
  • unfounded or unrealistic fears
  • trouble separating from parents
  • sleep disturbance
  • obsessive thought or compulsive behaviors
  • trembling, shortness of breath, sweating, headaches, stomachaches and other physical symptoms

Often, these indicators are out of the control of children which causes them discomfort and adds to their concerns.


Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is an excess feeling of worry or fear. This is not a controllable feeling and can occur most of the time during the day. The feeling seems to float around generally. The fear of failing and not being able to perform better in school are some of the exams of generalized anxiety.

Phobias are a particular kind of anxiety. A child can function properly until faced with an object, event or situation that triggers their fear. This explains the excessive fear of people to some things like bugs, snakes or others like clowns.

Separation Anxiety Disorder is the excessive fear of a child to be separated from his or her parents. They worry that something terrible will happen to their parents while they are away or will not return in time as they promised. This overthinking can be stressful for children and also for adolescents.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a condition that involves obsessions and compulsions. Often, children that suffer from this condition have thoughts, impulses or images that are difficult to control. Compulsions are behaviors that the child does to lessen their feeling of distress. “Obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD can be characterized by repetitive, unnecessary activities, or compulsions (like lining up dishes over and over so they look “perfect.”)” according to clinical psychologist Robert A. Lavine Ph.D.

Panic Disorders are anxieties that occur unexpectedly and without warning that causes distress and discomfort to a child. These attacks are not linked to any place or event. Children may experience high anxiety, difficulty breathing and the feeling like everything around them is closing in.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an intense feeling of anxiety after experiencing a traumatic event. Recollections can sometimes be in dreams, memories, things or events that remind them of the traumatizing experience they had. “To be diagnosed with PTSD, you usually have to be directly affected by the traumatic event, believing that your own life or those you care about are in danger,” says psychiatrist Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, MD, chief of psychiatry at Medstar Washington Hospital Center.


What Happens If I Don’t Find Help For My Child?

Anxiety disorders are a combination of life events that are traumatic for the young one. It can also be hereditary, from temperament to even biochemical factors that all affect the development of a child. If you don’t find help immediately, your child will suffer a multitude of mental health problems after his anxiety issues. He will also find it challenging to function as an adult.

The good news is that anxiety has a treatment. With proper examinations, tests, and consultations with doctors, your child can be treated accordingly. Often, children and adolescents do not initiate the procedures, so it is up to the parents or adult family members to help the children in that aspect.

What Is The Typical Approach?

Assessment: The first step is to assess your child. They will review current symptoms, duration of anxiety and the intensity of the anxiety.  Parents and guardians are also included in the assessment to know more about family backgrounds that can cause the anxiety of their child.

Treatment: As part of the evaluation, the doctor will discuss specific treatment plans that will help with the condition of your child. Not every child and their anxiety levels are the same, so the treatment and the process will also differ from child to child.

Obtaining Help And Support

Always seek the help of a professional. It is better to talk to a professional about your concerns so he can help you decide what to do.

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