Anxiety Disorders in Children

Anxiety Disorders in Children and When You Should Worry.

Anxiety disorders are considered to be one of the most common type of psychiatric disorders affecting children and adolescents.  However, studies have indicated that fewer than twenty percent of children with anxiety disorders actually receive treatment.  According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition, Text Revised (DSM-IV,TR), there are nine specific anxiety disorders that a child can have.  Although they are all distinct disorders, the commonality that they all  share is intense anxiety.  The focus of the anxiety is what distinguishes the disorders.

Possible long-term consequences of leaving anxiety disorders untreated:

Children and adolescents who do not receive the necessary treatment are at risk for repeated school absences, impaired relations with peers, poor self-esteem, alcohol or drug use, problems adjusting to work situations, and continued anxiety disorders in adulthood.  Although there are quite a few long-term consequences of not treating anxiety, the majority of children with significant anxiety do eventually demonstrate improvement on their own without treatment. One large study (Perrin, Hersen, and Kazdin, 1995) indicated that 82% of children recovered from the initial anxiety after four years, 68% recovered after the first year, and 8% evidenced relapse of anxiety after remission.  Although a good majority of children do eventually recover on their own with no intervention, a portion of children continue to demonstrate significant debilitating anxiety.  Additionally, early intervention for anxiety symptoms would make the child’s life easier and be less at risk for later anxiety relapses.  

Children with anxiety disorders are at increased risk of exhibiting additional, co-existing psychological conditions, including:

Depression, learning disorders, ADHD, and Tic Disorders to name a few.  It is quite common and developmentally normal for young children (5 years and younger) to demonstrate fear and anxiety of various situations including the dark and strangers.  Parents should start looking out for anxiety symptoms when their children are around six to eight years old.  At that age, the common and acceptable childhood fears should decrease.

Answers for you and your child:

If your child continues to demonstrate significant fear at that age, then he or she should receive intervention.  There is hope and a plethora of treatments are available.  Specifically, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), relaxation techniques, Biofeedback, family therapy, parent training, and medication are all available and have been proven beneficial for treating anxiety in children.

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Please share with us, what activities makes your child anxious and how do you handle the situation?

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