Childhood Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Anxiety in Children Explained

Anxiety, worry, or concern can be a normal feeling when someone is feeling stressed. The anxiety becomes a disorder when one is not able to cope with everyday stress and he or she struggles to deal with even the smallest of problems. Childhood anxiety disorders impede on the children and teens’ ability to develop and function normally.

Examples of childhood anxiety disorders are

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • social phobia
  • specific phobia
  • generalized anxiety disorder

Symptoms of these disorders begin in childhood or adolescence and can carry through to adulthood if not properly treated and addressed. Anxiety in children may not appear as it would for adults with anxiety.

Childhood Anxiety Disorder’s Associated Disorders

There are several types of childhood anxiety disorders. Different symptoms characterize each associated disorder. The following are types of anxiety disorders:

GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER (GAD)

GAD is characterized by worrying excessively about a collection of things and issues.

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD)

OCD is characterized by the experience of chronic and unwanted thoughts. This is coupled with having the compulsion to perform rituals and routines to try and ease the anxiety.

PANIC DISORDER

Panic disorder is diagnosed when a child or adolescent experiences at least two anxiety attacks in a period of time followed by anticipated anxiety for experiencing an attack again.

POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)

PTSD is diagnosed when the child or adolescent experiences intense fear, anxiety, avoidance of situations, and/or grows easily agitated after witnessing or facing a traumatic or life-threatening event.

SEPARATION ANXIETY DISORDER

Separation anxiety disorder is diagnosed when a child, typically older than 18 months old, experiences significant anxiety when away from home or separated from loved ones.

SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER (OR SOCIAL PHOBIA DISORDER)

Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the child or adolescent feels significant fear of socializing or participating in activities that require interactions with peers.

SELECTIVE MUTISM DISORDER

Selective mutism disorder is diagnosed when a child is talkative only in certain places, such as home or school, but he or she refuses to speak in specific situations. Children who are diagnosed with this disorder experience significant interference with normal functioning either at home, at school, and/or in the community because of their refusal to speak.

SPECIFIC PHOBIAS

Specific phobias are characterized by a severe fear of a specific object.

Symptoms of Childhood Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety in children or adolescents can manifest itself in many ways.  Anxiety symptoms often arise differently in children than they do in adults. The symptoms below are a sampling of symptoms children or adolescents may present with when struggling with an anxiety disorder.

Children’s symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Constant worry that causes significant distress and interferes with daily life
  • Feelings of nervousness and restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating and focusing
  • Avoidance of social situations or fear of not “fitting in” or being criticized
  • Experiencing panic attacks and anticipated anxiety of having another attack at any time
  • Recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing
  • Perseverating on irrational thoughts and engaging in repetitive behaviors to relieve anxiety
  • Physical symptoms (stomach problems, body aches, et cetera)

Every child and teen is unique and may present symptoms that are not listed. Thus, this list should not be considered inclusive of all potential symptoms of anxiety. In addition, some of the symptoms listed may be representative of other psychological or medical problems. This is why proper assessment and diagnosis is so critical to childhood anxiety disorder treatment.

Causes of Childhood Anxiety Disorder

There is no specific cause for child or teen anxiety disorders. Research suggests anxiety in children stems from a combination of environmental, psychological and biological factors. Genetics also seems to play a significant role by increasing the risk of a child or teen being affected by anxiety. Genetics also plays a role in a child’s temperament, which impacts how they respond to their social surroundings, which can contribute to anxiety.

Commonality of Childhood Anxiety Disorder

According to The National Institute of Mental health, 25% of 13 to 18 year olds experience a mild to moderate anxiety disorder and 5.9% experience a more severe anxiety disorder. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 1 in 8 children are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Diagnosis of Childhood Anxiety Disorder

Diagnosing children with anxiety disorders can be challenging because the symptoms can also be a result of a depressive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or another psychological or medical problem. Anxiety can also be a result of a learning, emotional or social problem. Thus, it imperative that the clinician rule out that the fears, worries, and overall anxiety are not a result of something else going on in the young person’s life. This can be done throughout the course of therapy or through a more comprehensive and formal psychological evaluation.

Childhood Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven to be most effective for children struggling with anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy works as a childhood anxiety disorder treatment because it helps the child/adolescent learn how to challenge their anxiety producing thoughts.

In addition to CBT, relaxation techniques, and exposure therapy – helping the child face the fear and sit with the discomfort until it passes – have shown to be effective techniques. Equilibria Kids in Philadelphia have child psychologists on staff who are trained to provide all of these effective childhood anxiety disorder treatments for children and teens who demonstrate anxiety disorder symptoms.

Schedule An Appointment

If you would like to meet or talk with one of our child psychologists or therapists in Philadelphia about our therapy services for childhood and teen anxiety, please call us at (267) 861-3685, option 1. Or fill out our secure online form.