All of us feel anxiety in our daily lives, and that is normal! Anxiety is our body’s alarm system that alerts us to danger. For some people, their alarm system is more sensitive, and goes off frequently even when there is little to no danger. When the frequency and intensity starts to feel out of control and get in the way of daily life, someone may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.
Nearly 32 percent of youth struggle or have struggled with an impairing anxiety disorder (based on diagnostic interview data from the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A)).
Anxiety Disorders Commonly Diagnosed in Children
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: The fear of being separated from important caregivers (more common in younger children).
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Worry about issues such as health, natural disasters, peer relationships, sports/academic performance, family problems or other important personal issues.
- Specific Phobias: Intense and irrational fear about a particular object (i.e., spiders) or situation (i.e., flying in an airplane).
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Intense fear of social or performance-related activities and situations that may lead to embarrassment in front of others.
- Panic Disorder: Experience of at least two unprovoked panic/anxiety attacks. This means they come on suddenly and without a specific reason. Panic attacks include both physical and mental symptoms.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Unwanted and intrusive thoughts and/or a feeling that compels someone to repeatedly complete an action to reduce anxiety.
- Obsessions are constant thoughts or worries about a specific topic, or mental rituals that must be completed to reduce anxiety.
- Compulsions are behaviors that someone is compelled to do to reduce anxiety, like repeated handwashing, checking and rechecking, or arranging items in a particular way
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms such as intense fear or anxiety, emotional numbing, and avoidance of objects or situations following a traumatic experience or event. Traumatic events include situations that cause or could cause serious bodily and/or psychological harm to the person or someone close to them.
If you notice several warning signs that persist over several weeks, talk with your child to get a better understanding of what they may be feeling. If you continue to feel worried, talk to your pediatrician, a staff member at their school or a mental health professional. There are scientifically proven and effective treatments for children who experience anxiety disorders.