What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is the most common psychological condition displayed in children and adolescents. There are a variety of specific anxiety disorders that may be present in children. The predominant theme of all anxiety disorders is uncontrollable worry. The major difference between the various diagnoses is what the focus of the worry is on.
Symptoms of anxiety in children?
Separation Anxiety Disorder:
One in twenty-five children demonstrate moderate to significant separation anxiety. The symptom of separation anxiety disorder is an overwhelming fear of harm or loss when the child is away from his or her parents. These children will often refuse to engage in extracurricular activities, need to have accessible communication with their parents (e.g., always carry a cell phone with them), and will often follow their parents around everywhere (e.g., have to go to the store with them, follow them around the house).
Social phobia is identified by a marked and consistent fear of performing publicly. These children often have intense fear of: answering questions in school, giving presentations in front of a group, using public bathrooms, and/or eating in public.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is identified by uncontrollable obsessions (intrusive thoughts) with a corresponding compulsion (ritualistic or repetitive behavior). It’s typical for children to display only the compulsive behavior and not be able to explain why.
Children who demonstrate specific phobia have an intense fear of a particular object or situation. Exposure to the feared object or situation automatically brings about worry and intense fear.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Excessive worry and anxiety about a number of events and activities. Children who experience generalized anxiety disorder often demonstrate excessive worry about future events, past events, academic performance, athletic performance, and peer relationships.
Panic Disorder is characterized by uncontrollable panic attacks with significant fear about future attacks. Symptoms of panic attacks that are frequently displayed in children include: trembling or shaking, heart palpitations, dizziness, faintness, shortness of breath, sweating, and fear of dying or losing control.
Natural course of the condition:
The course of anxiety disorders is variable and is found to be dependent on numerous factors. The majority of individuals who demonstrate anxiety symptoms in childhood do exhibit some form of anxiety as adolescents and adults.
General treatment of the condition:
The primary treatment of anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. The focus of cognitive behavioral therapy is for the child to develop strategies to change his or her negative thoughts. Additionally, exposure therapy is often a primary treatment. Exposure is when the child is forced to face the feared event or object in a safe environment. If the anxiety is significant enough that child has difficulty engaging in daily activities it is worthwhile to have a consultation with a pediatric psychiatrist to determine if pharmacological intervention is warranted.
Our approach at NSPT:
At NSPT, the child will usually work one-on-one with a trained therapist. The therapist will work with the child to develop strategies to utilize in anxiety provoking situations. Additionally, the therapist would work with the child’s parents in order to ensure that the strategies are being implemented within the home setting.