Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents

Anxiety disorders are among the most common types of mental health problems that occur in childhood and adolescence.

While experiencing a certain amount of anxiety and apprehension may be within the normal range of behavior for a particular age group, children and adolescents with an anxiety disorder exhibit an excessive response to a presenting set of circumstances. The fear or dread a youngster with an anxiety disorder experiences can be so overwhelming that normal daily function is impaired.

Children and adolescents with an anxiety disorder may have trouble sleeping, exhibit a decline in academic functioning, as well as have difficulties with peer interactions and family relationships. The physical manifestations associated with anxiety disorders can include trembling, sweating and shortness of breath, or complaints of other ailments such as stomachaches, headaches, and muscle aches. If left untreated, anxiety disorders that begin in childhood can persist well into adulthood.

Anxiety disorders as an adult and later in life

It’s essential to keep in mind that anxiety can develop gradually and occur at any stage of life. According to statistics, in any given year, GAD affects approximately 6.8 million adults in the United States with the incidence of the disorder higher in women than in men.

While occasional anxiety about stressful situations is a normal part of life, people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder can have so much difficulty controlling these feelings that they cannot concentrate on daily tasks and have problems performing at work, in school, and in social situations. They may be overly consumed by self-doubt or living up to the expectations of others, needing extra reassurance to feel more secure. A person with GAD may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, stomach ailments, or other pains.

There’s more than one type of anxiety disorder

Some of the most common anxiety and related disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorders (PD)
  • Specific Phobias (SD)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Contributing factors and risks

Although it is not fully understood what causes the disorder, it may be associated with family background, biological, and environmental factors. Furthermore, in some individuals, more than one type of anxiety disorder may be present as well as comorbid with another psychiatric condition such as depression or ADHD.

Management and Care

Depending on the severity of the diagnosed anxiety disorder, the level of impairment, and comorbid conditions, treatment may include a variety of psychotherapeutic approaches, including counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy. In some instances, medications or a combination of therapy and medications may be recommended. Also, certain methods of self-care, including the practice of stress management techniques and meditation, may help build awareness, release unhealthy thoughts, and produce a calming effect.

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