Understanding Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teens

Reviewed Jun 30, 2017

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Summary

Types of childhood anxiety disorders:

  • Social phobia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder

Normal fears and worries

Fears and worries are a normal part of life. In fact, certain kinds of fears are normal in a growing child. For example, older infants and toddlers might have anxiety when they are away from their parents. Young children begin to develop an imagination. When this happens, they may fear the monster in the closet. Some children have more worries than others. Their schoolwork, ability to make friends, and family relations can worsen because of their fear. Teens that have untreated anxiety disorders may turn to drugs or alcohol to ease their symptoms.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are probably the most common of all mental health problems for children and teens. In fact, about one in 10 children will have anxiety at some time during their lives. Anxiety disorders are not often diagnosed. Children may hide the symptoms from their parents and teachers. Sometimes anxiety disorders can go away without help or for no specific reason. Other times, they can be long term. These disorders respond very well to treatment.

There are several types of anxiety disorders that are widely found in children. They include:

  • Social phobia is a great fear of being rejected or made fun of in front of others. These children fear situations that typical children do not. They may be afraid to talk to others (adults or peers). They may be afraid to go to class. They seem be very shy.
  • Separation anxiety disorder is the child’s fear of being away from home or from their family. It is thought to be a disorder if it happens to a child who is preschool age or older. It is normal for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is marked by ritual behaviors. These can include hand washing, rearranging objects, or counting. The child feels he cannot stop the behavior. Children with OCD may also have frequent thoughts they can't seem to control. These can be thoughts of violence or tragedy. Older children most often know that their fears, thoughts, or actions are not rational. But, they can do nothing to stop them.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can appear after the child has a trauma such as an accident. It can also appear after a natural disaster or after being the victim of or seeing violence. Symptoms can develop within days after the event. Or, they may take months to develop. They can include nightmares and flashbacks. Or they may include great sadness, feeling angry, and a lot of anxiety.
  • Panic disorder is less common in children than in adults. Some children do get panic attacks. An attack can include shortness of breath, pounding heart, and tingling or numbing of the hands and feet. Also hot or cold flashes or a feeling that they will lose control or "go crazy."

Tips for parents

  • Blaming yourself or others is not useful. You may believe the anxiety resulted from something in the child’s life. But, you need to focus on how you and your child can get over the anxiety.
  • Be patient with your child. Telling a child to stop worrying or stop washing her hands will not make her fears go away. Be understanding. Try to lessen the child’s fears. But be truthful if her fears are real.
  • Encourage your child to create methods that will help him deal with the anxiety. Let him learn to handle it on his own. You will not always be there to soothe his fears. He needs to learn coping methods to use at school and when he is away from loved ones.
  • Talk with teachers, pediatricians, and other child care experts. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help or feel as though you need to have all the answers. Learn strategies that might best help your child face her fears.
By Haline Grublak, CPHQ
Reviewed by Philip Merideth, MD, Peer Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Types of childhood anxiety disorders:

  • Social phobia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder

Normal fears and worries

Fears and worries are a normal part of life. In fact, certain kinds of fears are normal in a growing child. For example, older infants and toddlers might have anxiety when they are away from their parents. Young children begin to develop an imagination. When this happens, they may fear the monster in the closet. Some children have more worries than others. Their schoolwork, ability to make friends, and family relations can worsen because of their fear. Teens that have untreated anxiety disorders may turn to drugs or alcohol to ease their symptoms.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are probably the most common of all mental health problems for children and teens. In fact, about one in 10 children will have anxiety at some time during their lives. Anxiety disorders are not often diagnosed. Children may hide the symptoms from their parents and teachers. Sometimes anxiety disorders can go away without help or for no specific reason. Other times, they can be long term. These disorders respond very well to treatment.

There are several types of anxiety disorders that are widely found in children. They include:

  • Social phobia is a great fear of being rejected or made fun of in front of others. These children fear situations that typical children do not. They may be afraid to talk to others (adults or peers). They may be afraid to go to class. They seem be very shy.
  • Separation anxiety disorder is the child’s fear of being away from home or from their family. It is thought to be a disorder if it happens to a child who is preschool age or older. It is normal for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is marked by ritual behaviors. These can include hand washing, rearranging objects, or counting. The child feels he cannot stop the behavior. Children with OCD may also have frequent thoughts they can't seem to control. These can be thoughts of violence or tragedy. Older children most often know that their fears, thoughts, or actions are not rational. But, they can do nothing to stop them.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can appear after the child has a trauma such as an accident. It can also appear after a natural disaster or after being the victim of or seeing violence. Symptoms can develop within days after the event. Or, they may take months to develop. They can include nightmares and flashbacks. Or they may include great sadness, feeling angry, and a lot of anxiety.
  • Panic disorder is less common in children than in adults. Some children do get panic attacks. An attack can include shortness of breath, pounding heart, and tingling or numbing of the hands and feet. Also hot or cold flashes or a feeling that they will lose control or "go crazy."

Tips for parents

  • Blaming yourself or others is not useful. You may believe the anxiety resulted from something in the child’s life. But, you need to focus on how you and your child can get over the anxiety.
  • Be patient with your child. Telling a child to stop worrying or stop washing her hands will not make her fears go away. Be understanding. Try to lessen the child’s fears. But be truthful if her fears are real.
  • Encourage your child to create methods that will help him deal with the anxiety. Let him learn to handle it on his own. You will not always be there to soothe his fears. He needs to learn coping methods to use at school and when he is away from loved ones.
  • Talk with teachers, pediatricians, and other child care experts. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help or feel as though you need to have all the answers. Learn strategies that might best help your child face her fears.
By Haline Grublak, CPHQ
Reviewed by Philip Merideth, MD, Peer Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Types of childhood anxiety disorders:

  • Social phobia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder

Normal fears and worries

Fears and worries are a normal part of life. In fact, certain kinds of fears are normal in a growing child. For example, older infants and toddlers might have anxiety when they are away from their parents. Young children begin to develop an imagination. When this happens, they may fear the monster in the closet. Some children have more worries than others. Their schoolwork, ability to make friends, and family relations can worsen because of their fear. Teens that have untreated anxiety disorders may turn to drugs or alcohol to ease their symptoms.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are probably the most common of all mental health problems for children and teens. In fact, about one in 10 children will have anxiety at some time during their lives. Anxiety disorders are not often diagnosed. Children may hide the symptoms from their parents and teachers. Sometimes anxiety disorders can go away without help or for no specific reason. Other times, they can be long term. These disorders respond very well to treatment.

There are several types of anxiety disorders that are widely found in children. They include:

  • Social phobia is a great fear of being rejected or made fun of in front of others. These children fear situations that typical children do not. They may be afraid to talk to others (adults or peers). They may be afraid to go to class. They seem be very shy.
  • Separation anxiety disorder is the child’s fear of being away from home or from their family. It is thought to be a disorder if it happens to a child who is preschool age or older. It is normal for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is marked by ritual behaviors. These can include hand washing, rearranging objects, or counting. The child feels he cannot stop the behavior. Children with OCD may also have frequent thoughts they can't seem to control. These can be thoughts of violence or tragedy. Older children most often know that their fears, thoughts, or actions are not rational. But, they can do nothing to stop them.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can appear after the child has a trauma such as an accident. It can also appear after a natural disaster or after being the victim of or seeing violence. Symptoms can develop within days after the event. Or, they may take months to develop. They can include nightmares and flashbacks. Or they may include great sadness, feeling angry, and a lot of anxiety.
  • Panic disorder is less common in children than in adults. Some children do get panic attacks. An attack can include shortness of breath, pounding heart, and tingling or numbing of the hands and feet. Also hot or cold flashes or a feeling that they will lose control or "go crazy."

Tips for parents

  • Blaming yourself or others is not useful. You may believe the anxiety resulted from something in the child’s life. But, you need to focus on how you and your child can get over the anxiety.
  • Be patient with your child. Telling a child to stop worrying or stop washing her hands will not make her fears go away. Be understanding. Try to lessen the child’s fears. But be truthful if her fears are real.
  • Encourage your child to create methods that will help him deal with the anxiety. Let him learn to handle it on his own. You will not always be there to soothe his fears. He needs to learn coping methods to use at school and when he is away from loved ones.
  • Talk with teachers, pediatricians, and other child care experts. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help or feel as though you need to have all the answers. Learn strategies that might best help your child face her fears.
By Haline Grublak, CPHQ
Reviewed by Philip Merideth, MD, Peer Advisor, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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