What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety is being worried, scared, or nervous. Some anxiety is common and normal at all ages. For example, many young children are afraid of the dark. Older children are often anxious when they have a test.
However, anxiety may become a disorder if:
Children are anxious a lot of the time even when they aren't having problems
What they're anxious about isn't that bad
Their anxiety gets in the way of daily life and causes problems at home or school
Children can have many of the same anxiety disorders as adults. These include generalized anxiety Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Anxiety is being worried or nervous. Anxiety is often normal. For example, many people are anxious when they're having money problems, trouble at work, or family difficulties. However, if you're... read more , panic attacks Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder A panic attack is when all of a sudden you get very scared and anxious. You might also have chest pain and choking and feel sick to your stomach, dizzy, and short of breath. A panic attack lasts... read more , posttraumatic stress disorder Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is when memories of a highly upsetting event keep coming back, over and over, to invade your thoughts. This lasts for more than a month and can go on for... read more (PTSD), and specific fears Phobic Disorders (Phobias) Phobia is a medical term for fear. It's normal to be afraid of dangerous things. Most people are afraid of things like standing on the edge of a cliff or going near a snarling dog. However,... read more (phobias).
Other anxiety disorders occur mainly in children or are different in children. These include separation anxiety disorder Separation Anxiety Disorder Anxiety is being worried or nervous. Separation anxiety is the normal reaction of young children to get upset and cry when someone they're attached to leaves the room. It usually starts when... read more and social anxiety disorder Social Anxiety Disorder in Children and Adolescents Anxiety is being worried, scared, or nervous. Lots of people, including children, are anxious in social situations, for example, when they have to speak in class or talk to strangers at a party... read more (fear of being judged).
Generally, with anxiety disorders:
Children may refuse to go to school and give excuses such as a stomach ache as the reason
The disorders can run in families
Many children who have an anxiety disorder struggle with anxiety in adulthood Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Anxiety is being worried or nervous. Anxiety is often normal. For example, many people are anxious when they're having money problems, trouble at work, or family difficulties. However, if you're... read more
Treatment usually helps, including talking to a therapist and sometimes taking medicine
What are the symptoms of anxiety disorders in children?
Children and teens with an anxiety disorder commonly:
Refuse to go to school
Talk about their anxiety, saying things like “I’m worried that I’ll never see you again” or “I’m worried kids will laugh at me”
Complain of physical symptoms—anxiety can cause an upset stomach, nausea, and headaches
How can doctors tell if my child has an anxiety disorder?
Your doctor asks about symptoms. If your child has a lot of physical symptoms, such as stomach aches or headaches, doctors may do tests for physical disorders that can cause those symptoms.
How do doctors treat anxiety disorders in children?
Doctors treat anxiety disorders in children with:
Behavior therapy, where a therapist gradually exposes your child to the situation that causes anxiety so that, over time, your child becomes less anxious