Anxiety in children can be a very common problem. It can be a stand-alone issue, or it can tag along with other disorders such as ADHD or learning differences. Although it occurs frequently, it often goes unrecognized and untreated. Get the basic facts on anxiety disorders in children, and find out whether your family should follow up.
1. Anxiety In Children: What Is It?
Basic anxiety or worries and concerns about things that might happen is a very natural and necessary human emotion. Think of the basic “fight or flight” response that we all know so well. At normal levels, basic anxiety can keep us safe, healthy and whole.
Anxiety itself is not bad. But sometimes anxiety can become excessive. And, it becomes disproportionate to the danger or risk at hand. It can be debilitating and significantly interfere with one’s ability to conduct or enjoy day to day affairs. Being a little anxious or fearful is entirely rational. However, if a child is excessively anxious, having difficulty at school, home, in social life, it may indicate an anxiety disorder.
Experts believe that 10% to 15% or more of children experience an anxiety disorder before the age of 18. But, up to 80% of kids with some type of diagnosable anxiety disorder fail to receive treatment. Treatment that could greatly improve their quality of life, and the quality of life of their families. And, treatment that could otherwise greatly enhance their ability to function successfully as adults.
Sometimes anxieties disorders may be overlooked or ignored. Adults may brush off or misattribute otherwise troubling behavior because they think kids shouldn’t have any major worries. They don’t have the stressors commonly seen in adulthood – like money, relationships, career, health etc.
Or, other issues could be overshadowing excessive anxiety. Kids who experience ADHD or other learning disabilities may often also experience intense anxiety. Particularly, if they are experiencing undiagnosed conditions that create frustrations and problems in everyday life. The lack of meaningful explanation or a plan to address the underlying conditions may yield to intense anxiety.
Some of the more commonly occurring anxiety disorders include:
* Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Children with Generalized Anxiety Disorder will worry excessively about a wide range of everyday things or commonly occurring events. You may see this as intense anxiety about his or her own performance at school. Or, excessive performance anxiety around outside activities or sports. Sometimes these worries may seem like extreme perfectionism.
Kids with this disorder may have anxieties about others and not just themselves. For instance, intense worries about something happening to family members and friends. Or, excessive concerns about natural disasters or emergencies.
* Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorders basically revolve around worries about how others perceive you. Kids may have an intense fear of being judged by others. Or, experience worries about being the center of attention. It may show up as extreme self-consciousness. Or, unusually intense concerns about being embarrassed or humiliated. Social anxiety disorders arise most often in adolescents. But they occur in younger children as well.
* Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Kids experiencing an obsessive-compulsive disorder are beset with negative thoughts, fears or emotions that are repetitive in nature. And, their obsessive thoughts trigger some ritualistic attempt to control or repel those unwanted thoughts, fears or emotions.
This is the anxiety disorder that you will more frequently see portrayed in the movies. It may be most famously displayed in the movie “As Good As It Gets” with the locking of the doors and avoidance of cracks in the sidewalk.
Other common compulsions include repetitive hand-washing, repetitive rechecking of information, seeking repetitive assurances about the same situation, hoarding or “collecting” items of no apparent value.
Image by: Depositphotos