Anxiety disorders in Children and Young Adults

Anxiety disorders in children are very treatable. Unknown to most Americans, anxiety disorders are extremely high on the list of health problems in children. Unfortunately, most people do not know what to look for, so the symptoms go untreated. It has even been suggested that many adults’ problems had their root in childhood, though left undiagnosed. These roots then grew, took hold, and often later showed up in their adult counterparts.

Anxiety is usually described as being a sense of worry mixed with fear, apprehension, and even distress. These feelings are perfectly normal in our lives, however, one must be able to judge when these feelings head toward being too frequent and overwhelming. Physical symptoms tend to include sweating, jitteriness, nausea, and headache; whereas the emotional counterparts are nervousness and fear. In anxiety disorders, these feelings and physical symptoms are much more severe. This can cause a child’s rational thinking and decision making to become skewed, for them to view their own environments differently, as well as making sitting in school and trying to learn very difficult. Children with severe symptoms often complain of stomach aches, dizziness, diarrhea, not being able to breathe, feeling weak.

There are many types of anxiety disorders that can surface in children. General anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive feelings of apprehension, worry, and fear happening almost every day for longer than 6 months. The child cannot control these feelings and is often restless, hyper, irritable, and cannot fall asleep or stay asleep so is also easily tired out. Children with this type of general anxiety disorder have problems functioning in their daily lives and this causes them more feelings of distress and anxiousness.

Panic disorders are not the same as panic attacks. Panic disorders are actually repeated panic attacks with the addition of worrying about having other attacks and how it is affecting their behavior. Many people with this disorder find it difficult to function normally as they are constantly on edge worrying about when another panic attack will happen.

Obsessive-compulsive disorders are characterized by recurring unwanted thoughts and/or repeated behaviors. It is an obsession that has to be done no matter how hard the child wants to stop doing it. Obsessive-compulsives often wind up living alone as they cannot stand to have someone else soil their home, arrange their possessions, or not lock a door or window.

Posttraumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder can be similar as these disorders are usually the result of witnessing, experiencing, or confronting a traumatic event. The only difference is that posttraumatic stress disorders persist longer than one month whereas acute stress disorder occurs and dissipates in less than a month. Both disorders cause extreme amounts of distress, sleeplessness, worry, and fear.

Phobias can also cause extreme amounts of stress in children. The main concern is for parents to be able to distinguish between a normal fear, such as monsters under the bed, and an irrational fear, such as being out in public. Once these are distinguished, then the parents can help the child seek out the appropriate treatment.

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