Anxiety disorders

All children experience anxiety. In fact, some anxiety can help children make safe choices (not cross the street without looking both ways) and perform well (study before a big test). Anxiety is concerning when it no longer protects the child, and instead gets in the way of their ability to function in a healthy way. For example, children experiencing problematic anxiety may avoid participating in certain activities, complain of frequent aches and pains, have difficulty sleeping, and have trouble focusing in school.

There are several different types of anxiety disorders. The most common anxiety disorders in children are:

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Treatment for anxiety disorders usually includes therapy, medication, or a combination of both. The most common and successful form of therapy used to treat anxiety disorders is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves helping children to understand how their thoughts and behaviors can affect how they feel and learn ways to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. Therapists can also help parents to understand how their behavior may increase their child’s anxiety (for example, allowing their child to sleep with them at night). It is very important to seek out medical advice if you are concerned that your child has an anxiety disorder, because if left untreated, anxieties grow bigger and can cause increased problems.