Just how common is childhood anxiety disorder? According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, an astounding 13% of children and adolescents aged 9 to 17 suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. And about half of those have a second anxiety disorder or other mental or behavioral disorder, such as depression. Read here: https://www.nhsheroes.co.uk/shop/codeine/dihydrocodeine-30mg-tablets/
Kids with anxiety disorders are likely to experience persistent worry, intense fear or general anxieties that can significantly affect their lives. If it’s not caught and treated early, the following are typical problems they will develop:
Repeated school absences
Trouble with school work and difficulty finishing school
Difficulty with peer relationships
Difficulty when it comes time to enter the work force
Alcohol or other drug abuse, and…
Anxiety disorder continuing into adulthood
Types of Anxiety Disorders Experienced by Children
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Characterized by intense, unrealistic worry about things like academic performance, sports, being on time – things other kids take in stride. These are typically self-conscious kids and they’re very tense and nervous and may complain a lot about symptoms like stomach aches that have no logical explanation.
Separation Anxiety Disorder: Children with this disorder are very clingy with their parents and have trouble being away from them. They’ll have a hard time going to sleepovers with friends, summer camp or other times away from home that other kids relish. They have trouble being independent. They may also have fears of a parent leaving them or irrational fears about a parent dying. Of course, separation anxiety may be caused by the absence of a parent or the death of a loved one. About 4% of American children experience separation anxiety disorder, according to DHHS.
Panic Disorder: Panic attacks are typified by intense fear, a pounding heart, sweating, trembling or tremors, dizziness and/or nausea. They’re so scary to a child that he or she will live in fear of another one. These are scary enough for an adult, but think about the kid who doesn’t understand what’s going on or how to articulate it to his parents or anyone else. He’s likely to cower in a corner somewhere, thinking he’s going to die. Naturally then, the child will go to extreme lengths to avoid any situation he perceives may cause another attack. Such as school. This leads us to the next one…
Phobias: As in adults with anxiety and panic disorders, a child will learn to avoid anything he or she thinks will cause another attack, no matter how irrational the association may be. This is what a phobia is: avoidance of attack triggers. They may manifest themselves in fears of heights, water, animals, storms or situations like being in an enclosed space or being around a lot of people. Obviously, phobias cause major restrictions on a child’s life.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: We’ve all heard about this one in regards to war veterans but it can appear in young children just as often. It may be caused by a stressful event, physical or sexual abuse, being the victim or witness of violence or living through a disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake. Children growing up in war zones are particularly prone to PTSD, more so than adults. Kids with this disorder will experience the events over and over in their heads, through memories, flashbacks and dreams. They may become afraid to go to sleep.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Compulsive behaviors might include counting, repeated hand washing or constantly arranging and rearranging things. The sufferer becomes trapped in obsessive, repetitive behaviors and thoughts. Even though the child knows these are senseless, it’s very difficult to break the patterns. Hence, “compulsive”. The good news is, this disorder is easy to spot and diagnose as an anxiety disorder – there could be no other reason for these obsessive, compulsive behaviors.
What Kind of Children Are Most Likely to Develop Anxiety Disorders?
Research has shown that kids with certain personality traits are more likely to experience anxiety disorders. Those who are shy and reserved and those who tend to be uncertain and restrained in unfamiliar situations are seen to be more prone to anxiety issues.
Because fears in children change or diminish with age, researchers suggest paying closer attention to kids between 6 and 8 years old. At this age, normally children become less fearful of things like the dark and imaginary monsters under their beds but become more anxious about their school and social lives. If at this point the early childhood fears aren’t going away or if the child suddenly is excessively anxious about school and social life, parents should be wary of a possibility that the child is developing an anxiety disorder.
Studies have also shown that a child who has a parent or parents with anxiety problems is likely to follow in the parent’s footsteps. Whether it’s due to genetics or conditioning isn’t clear at this point – more studies need to be done to determine that. (For more on this see Panic and Anxiety Disorder: Where Do They Come From? – opens in a new window)
What Can Parents Do If A Child Exhibits Anxiety Symptoms?
First off, if you haven’t already, take the child to a doctor to make sure there aren’t any physical, medical reasons for the symptoms or behaviors you’re seeing. If the doctor gives him/her a clean bill of health then begin pursuing remedies for anxiety disorders.
Diet – Try to adjust the child’s diet to eliminate stimulants (sugar, caffeine, etc.) and artificial additives like aspartame and MSG.
Listen – Try to get the child to open up to you. Be supportive, reassuring and sympathetic and listen without judging. Make sure he knows you’re on his side and are willing to do what it takes to get him relief.
Counseling for the child – Find a counselor with experience dealing with anxiety issues in kids and with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If your child is young you’ll probably have to be involved in learning and applying what the counselor teaches.
Counseling for you – If you have anxiety issues yourself, now is a good time to do something about it. The same Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will help you. If you don’t have anxiety issues, find a counselor who can help you with whatever issues you may have that are contributing to your child’s anxiety (see Panic and Anxiety Disorder: Where Do They Come From? – opens in a new window). You might also take a parenting class, since kids don’t come with owner’s manuals. These are often available at no cost to you, other than your time and effort.
At-home help – Invest in a program (preferably video or audio, not books) you can use in the privacy of your own home and go through it with your child, whether you have anxiety problems yourself or not. This will help you to understand what your child is going through, understand what causes it and what adjustments can help.
In conclusion, if you have a child with anxiety disorder, please take this very seriously and get some help for your child. Untreated (and I don’t mean with medications) childhood anxiety disorder will only get worse and your child will end up as an unproductive, unhappy, suffering adult with a debilitating disorder. And who will very possibly turn to alcohol or illicit drugs for relief. Or worse.