Specific phobias are characterized by a severe fear of a specific object.
Symptoms of Childhood Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety in children or adolescents can manifest itself in many ways. Anxiety symptoms often arise differently in children than they do in adults.
The symptoms below are a sampling of symptoms children or adolescents may present with when struggling with an anxiety disorder:
- Constant worry that causes significant distress and interferes with daily life
- Feelings of nervousness and restlessness
- Trouble concentrating and focusing
- Avoidance of social situations or fear of not “fitting in” or being criticized
- Experiencing panic attacks and anticipated anxiety of having another attack at any time
- Recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing
- Perseverating on irrational thoughts and engaging in repetitive behaviors to relieve anxiety
- Physical symptoms (stomach problems, body aches, etc)
Every child and teen is unique and may present symptoms that are not listed. Thus, this list should not be considered inclusive of all potential symptoms of anxiety. In addition, some of the symptoms listed may be representative of other psychological or medical problems. This is why proper assessment and diagnosis is so critical to childhood anxiety disorder treatment.
Causes of Childhood Anxiety Disorder
There is no specific cause for child or teen anxiety disorders. Research suggests anxiety in children stems from a combination of environmental, psychological and biological factors. Genetics also seems to play a significant role in increasing the risk of a child or teen being affected by anxiety. Genetics also plays a role in a child’s temperament, which impacts how they respond to their social surroundings, which can contribute to anxiety.
Commonality of Childhood Anxiety Disorder
According to The National Institute of Mental health, 25% of 13 to 18 year olds experience a mild to moderate anxiety disorder and 5.9% experience a more severe anxiety disorder. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 1 in 8 children are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Diagnosis of Childhood Anxiety Disorder
Diagnosing children with anxiety disorders can be challenging because the symptoms can also be a result of a depressive disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or another psychological or medical problem. Anxiety can also be a result of a learning, emotional or social problem. Thus, it imperative that the clinician rule out that the fears, worries, and overall anxiety are not a result of something else going on in the young person’s life. This can be done throughout the course of therapy or through a more comprehensive and formal psychological evaluation.
Childhood Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven to be most effective for children struggling with anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy works as a childhood anxiety disorder treatment because it helps the child/adolescent learn how to challenge their anxiety producing thoughts.
In addition to CBT, relaxation techniques, and exposure therapy – helping the child face the fear and sit with the discomfort until it passes – have shown to be effective techniques. Equilibria Kids in Philadelphia have child psychologists on staff who are trained to provide all of these effective childhood anxiety disorder treatments for children and teens who demonstrate anxiety disorder symptoms.