Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in Children

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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry about a variety of events. It is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches, muscular tension, restlessness, heart palpitations, and stomach upset. Children and adolescents with GAD may worry excessively about their performance and competence at school or in sporting events, about personal safety and the safety of family members, or about natural disasters and future events.

The difference between normal feelings of anxiety and the presence of generalized anxiety disorder is that children with GAD worry more often and more intensely than other children in the same circumstances. Children with GAD tend to worry about the same things as their non-anxious peers but they do so in excess. These worries and associated symptoms cause significant distress and impair daily functioning. Children with GAD are often overly self-critical and avoid activities in which they feel that may not be able to perform perfectly. They also tend to seek frequent reassurance from caregivers, teachers, and others about their performance, although this reassurance only provides only fleeting relief from their worries.

GAD is relatively common disorder among children and adolescents. It begins gradually, often in childhood or adolescence, with symptoms that may worsen during times of stress. Worries may switch from one concern to another and may change with time and age. GAD may result in significant academic, social, and familial impairment. If left untreated, the disorder may be chronic and predicative of adulthood anxiety and depression. However, early identification and effective management can help reduce the severity of symptoms. Psychotherapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, are among the most researched and promising treatments for childhood anxiety. In certain instances, medication in combination with psychotherapy, may also recommended for treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.

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