How can I tell whether my child or teen is anxious?
Anxiety can start when children are very young and stay hidden for many years, causing children to suffer in silence. Anxiety can interfere with academic, social, and family functioning and worsens over time. Left untreated, anxiety disorders may lead to depression and other mental health problems. Fortunately, anxiety disorders are highly treatable and most individuals recover with appropriate treatment. There are several types (or diagnostic categories) of anxiety disorders in children. Below is some more information about each.
Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD): A child or adolescent with separation anxiety fears something terrible may happen to cause a lasting separation from home or loved ones. As a result, the child has extreme difficulty being away from home or the parents and tries to avoid these situations.
Social Phobia: Children who are socially anxious experience extreme distress in social situations and may exhibit excessive shyness. They fear being rejected or judged by others.
Specific Phobias: Phobias are irrational and excessive fears of specific objects or situations.
Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia: Typically not experienced until adolescence, panic disorder includes unexpected and recurrent panic attacks. These children often experience a fear of future panic attacks and may therefore attempt to avoid situations in which these attacks may occur, such as school, stores, movie theaters, or their friendsí homes.
Symptoms of a panic attack:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Children with OCD experience persistent, recurrent, and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that are often accompanied by an overwhelming need to perform repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions) to prevent some dreaded event.
Examples of compulsions:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Children and adolescents experience this type of anxiety following a traumatic event, such as accidents, fires/floods/tornados, or physical/sexual abuse. These children often experience heightened levels of anxious arousal, as they may feel they are re-experiencing the traumatic event, and they may avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event.
Trichotillomania (TTM) is an impulse disorder that causes people to pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or other parts of the body, leading to noticeable bald patches. Although it is considered an impulse-control disorder, it may resemble a habit, an addiction, tic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) and dysthymic disorder are two commonly diagnosed mood disorders in childhood. Children with depression may exhibit the following symptoms: