Childhood Anxiety Disorder

Childhood anxiety is quite common; children anxiety disorder, as well as adults, experience feelings of anxiousness, worry and fear from time to time.   These feelings are normal in most situations; we all understand when childhood anxiety occurs on the first day of school, before a recital or game, or upon meeting a stranger or facing a new experience.  However, when childhood anxiety begins to interfere with the child's abilty to function normally and to make judgments, to affect their learning, and to cause physical symptoms such as sweating, nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, and other signs of distress, there may be more to the problem than ordinary anxiousness and fear.  To determine whether childhood anxiety is normal or abnormal, several factors must be considered.  Foremost is whether or not the anxiety is impeding the child's ability to function normally according to age and developmental expectations, and the level of distress that is caused.  Second, the amount of time the anxiety occurs and dominates the child's perceptions must be evaluated.  If a child is overly worried and anxious for more days than he or she is not over a period of several weeks, it should be clear that there is an underlying problem.

What causes childhood anxiety?  There are a number of factors which can lead to anxiety in children.  There is a genetic component, meaning that if the child's mother or father experienced an anxiety disorder, he or she is more likely to as well.  Physiological differences in the brain have been linked to anxiety, along with traumatic experiences.

What are the symptoms of childhood anxiety?  Symptoms include excessive anxiety or worry, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.  Other symptoms may be physical and include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, sweating, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.  If your child experiences any of these symptoms over a period of time, you should check with your doctor.

How do I know whether my son or daughter is experiencing childhood anxiety disorder?  If your child appears anxious than worried more often than not over a period of several weeks, seems to have difficulty concentrating, and experiences physiological symptoms which do not disappear, you should consult your pediatrician.

Isn't it just normal separation anxiety?  While many children do suffer from separation anxiety, and some of them go through this phase longer than others, if the childhood anxiety is interfering with your child's ability to function normally and causes a great deal of distress, there may be more going on than simple separation fears.

How is anxiety disorder in children treated?  There are a number of different theories on treating anxiety.  Children with anxiety may  be taught to recognize the physiological symptoms of anxiety and give themselves positive feedback, with the help of parents.  Many pediatricians favor a combination of talk therapy and medication for treating childhood anxiety.