Anxiety in Children
Childhood Anxiety – Anxiety Disorders in Children
Childhood anxiety manifests in different forms and the most common types of anxiety disorders in children are separation anxiety, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder in children, panic disorder, selective mutism, post traumatic stress disorder and specific phobias.
Each of these conditions have specific symptoms and require a personalized treatment plan, although there are some general techniques and therapy patterns with good results for all the mentioned forms of anxiety disorders.
The Types of Anxiety Disorders in Children
1. Separation Anxiety
This form of anxiety in children appears as a normal manifestation within the first few years of life, but it is considered abnormal when the symptoms persist over the age of 6. Mild forms of separation anxiety are not threatening for a child’s well being and development, but if not addressed appropriately, the symptoms may worsen and this will have a negative impact on the social involvement of the child.
Typical manifestations for this type of anxiety disorder in children are excessively worrying about bad things that may happen to the parents or caregivers, feelings of fear when it comes to leaving the house or sleeping alone as well as the intense and persistent idea that something terrible will happen while the child is separated from his or her parents.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
A particular form of childhood anxiety, OCD is defined by unwanted, disturbing and obsessive thoughts that come back repeatedly and make the child feel compelled to perform different rituals and routines in order to combat the anxiety-inducing thoughts.
This condition generally occurs in childrens aged 10 or more, but it can also affect children as young as 2 or 3 years old. Girls are more prone to developing this ailment during adolescence, while boys usually experience the unpleasant symptoms before puberty. The most common manifestations and signs of OCD are the repeated washing and cleaning actions.
3. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Unlike the previously mentioned anxiety disorders in children, GAD manifests through excessive worries about family issues, relationships, performances in various domains and future events. The child is very hard on himself and seeks for approval from others, as his self-esteem and self-confidence are very low.
Although children dealing with this issue generally avoid anxiety-inducing situations, there are cases in which the manifestations are so severe that they cause disruption of the simplest activities and so have a detrimental impact on the development of the child.
4. Selective Mutism
Appearing generally in children aged between 4 and 8 years, this condition is characterized by the child’s refusal to speak in situations when talking is necessary or expected. This refusal affects the child’s social integration as it interferes with his school activities and makes it difficult for the child to socialize, interact with people around him and make new friends.
While at home children affected by this condition are very talkative, when it comes to expressing their feelings and thoughts in public places they stand motionless, avoid eye contact, become expressionless and often withdraw into an isolated corner of the room to avoid having to interact at social events.
The symptoms of this form of childhood anxiety appear in children witnessing traumatic events, but the most prone are those children directly involved in life-threatening situations. An intense fear, increased irritability, emotional numbness and erratic behavior are the typical signs of PTSD.
Children affected by this ailment avoid the places, activities or people that remind them of the traumatic event, whether this refers to the death of someone dear, to a terrible injury, to home-violence episodes or even bullying at school.
6. Specific Phobias
Specific phobias are also included among the forms of anxiety in children, although often these psychical problems are neglected and considered unimportant by parents or caregivers. This type of childhood anxiety manifests through an irrational fear of objects, animals, darkness, water, storm, heights or medical procedures.
When exposed to the anxiety-inducing factor, the child starts crying, pretends to have headaches and nausea, stomachaches, avoids eye and physical contact with people around him and throws tantrums. All these manifestations disappear once the fear trigger is eliminated, therefore this childhood anxiety type is quite easy to recognize and treat.
Articles related to anxiety in children:
OCD symptoms in children are often more difficult to control than those occurring in adults, because children aren’t aware of the vicious cycle of unhealthy behaviors they are trapped in. When this form of anxiety in children starts manifesting, simple worries and doubts turn into distressing ideas and obsessive thoughts that can’t be stopped with all the child’s efforts. As a result, the child feels compelled to repeat an anxiety-reducing ritual over and over again. The symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder in children can change over time but in most cases they become even more …[...read more]
Post traumatic stress disorder in children can appear at any age, the onset of symptoms accompanying this form of childhood anxiety being linked with a life-threatening event or with prolonged exposure to horrifying and traumatic situations. Genetic predisposition, other existing mental health problems and increased stress levels in everyday life may also cause PTSD in children. [...read more]
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