Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teens

Specialists have described common patterns of anxiety. When anxiety causes distress or interference that is much greater than anxiety experienced by other children of the same age, it may be called an anxiety disorder. In this case, the term "disorder" simply indicates that the anxiety problem is significant enough and has lasted long enough (usually at least a number of weeks or months) to be considered a problem that warrants intervention. Commonly, children and teens experience anxiety problems that are characteristic of more than one anxiety disorder. Fortunately, the helpful approaches are similar for various anxiety problems.

Be sure to watch our video below for more the play button to start.

Childhood Anxiety Video

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Does your child have mild to moderate anxiety? If your child has mild to moderate anxiety, or has not been diagnosed with a disorder, click here to learn more general home management strategies for your child.

Does your child have a diagnosed (or suspected) anxiety disorder? Below is a list of seven anxiety disorders and subtypes. Click on the links for a more detailed description, (including a video and stories), as well as home management strategies that are specific to that disorder.

Separation Anxiety Disorder. These children have excessive anxiety about being separated from home or from an important attachment figure, such as a parent. For example, they may cling or cry when a parent leaves the home, or refuse to go to school or bed without a parent present.

Specific Phobias. Phobias are characterized by persistent, excessive and unreasonable fears of an object or situation, which significantly interferes with life and is beyond voluntary control. Some common phobias for children and teens include fear of dogs, swimming, heights, and injections.

Social Anxiety Disorder. These children and teens have an intense fear of social and/or performance situations, and excessive concern about social embarrassment or humiliation. They may avoid social activities like going to parties, performing in recitals, speaking to adults, or even school.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Children and teens with this disorder worry excessively and uncontrollably about daily life events. These worries include potential negative events in the future, minor matters, a loved one becoming ill or dying, school, and world events, such as war and natural disasters.

Panic Disorder. This is characterized by unexpected and repeated panic attacks, followed by at least one month of worry about having additional attacks and/or fear of something bad happening as a result of the panic attack, such as going crazy, losing control, or dying.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Children and teens with this disorder have obsessions, or unwanted ugly thoughts that make them anxious, and/or they engage in compulsions (repetitive behaviors or mental acts) in an attempt to reduce a feeling of anxiety. Some compulsions may include repeated hand-washing, checking, tapping, or mental routines (such as counting backwards from 100). An example of an intrusive thought is "I might get sick and die from touching a bathroom door".

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is an anxiety disorder that can develop after being directly involved, witnessing, or hearing about a frightening traumatic event. Symptoms include upsetting vivid memories, nightmares, flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of reminders.


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