Anxiety in children: overview and treatment options

by admin

Anxiety and fear are natural responses necessary for our existence and are not diseases. There are throughout childhood normal fears that are part of growing up. Fears to the darkness and the unknown are typical of children. As they grow there are new fears, often oriented at their own performance, other times, of a more existential nature.

When anxiety interferes with daily life and its manifestations are very intense, we are dealing with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are of great importance in childhood. Despite this, it is a disorder rarely consulted, mainly because it is difficult to diagnose due to its resemblance to other typical childhood disorders.

It is a condition that can bring great suffering, as children tend to live it in silence and without rationalizing what is happening to them. Anxiety disorders in children are characterized by fear, shame or worry, all very intense and very regular. It is, so to speak, an increase in the interpretation of stimuli received by the everyday environment. Catastrophic thinking is key in its diagnosis in children.

According to the symptoms presented, the children may have different anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Separation anxiety disorder.
  • Specific phobia.
  • Social phobia.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Panic disorder.
  • Post traumatic stress disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Excessive concern with any activity of daily life, from academic performance to any work at home. Children or adolescents with this disorder, usually change the focus of their anxiety, but it is constant. They often complain of stomachaches or other conditions that doesn’t seem to have a physical cause. May have a bad mood and fatigue, besides presenting tantrums.

Separation Anxiety Disorder.

They are children who often have a difficult time separating from their parents to go to school, sleeping or just to be alone. Often accompanied by sadness, excessive concern regarding the safety of their loved ones and fear of loneliness. It is a very common disorder in children. Is evident in children who tend to refuse to go to school without a specific reason, or have somatic complaints when foresee the separation. It is a condition closely associated with panic attacks.

Specific phobia.

Excessive and irrational fear of certain situations or objects. In children, some of the typical phobias include fear of animals, darkness, school, among others.

 Social phobia

It is a deep fear towards activities that involve social interaction. Often it is the fear of criticism and public humiliation in others it is only fear of strangers. In children, this anxiety is often expressed in the form of crying, opposition, tantrums and the need to avoid the situation.

Obsessive compulsive disorder.

These are children who produce thought and behavior patterns. It is difficult to control and often difficult to diagnose. The most common compulsions in children are:

  • Ritualized washing of hands.
  • Need to repeat, check and count.
  • Rituals before bedtime.

Panic Disorder. 

As in adults, usually occur unexpectedly and spontaneously, and are usually associated with other disorders such as separation disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is a condition associated with a stressful, intense event, like an accident, natural disaster or physical abuse. As a result, they want to avoid anything that is associated with the traumatic event.

Anxiety disorders in children do not tend to disappear on their own, usually intensify and develop into deeper disorders. It is therefore important a proper diagnosis and early treatment. In children, it is usually recommended psychological therapy instead to medications.

If parents or other caregivers notice symptoms of anxiety disorders in children or adolescents, should consult with a doctor to determine if the symptoms are caused by an anxiety disorder or some other disorder.

Click here for a very  interesting article related to genetic research on anxiety in children.

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