Anxiety Disorders in Children

Children often have their own anxieties and worries during their growing years. It is natural for small children to be a little worried when left alone in the dark or while preparing for exams. However, this anxiety can become a problem when it starts affecting the child’s daily activities. A child having an anxiety disorder may have a low self-esteem, poor learning abilities, and also difficulty forming relationships. There is also a chance that these children start abusing drugs and alcohol, when they become teenagers or adults.

The reason for anxiety disorders among children can be attributed to mainly three factors – genes, personality, and environment. Researchers believe that a children may acquire the disorder due to the inheritance of faulty genes from their parents. Sometimes, the basic nature or personality of the child may be such that he is fearful and worries all the time for insignificant reasons, which further results into anxiety disorder. Yet another reason for a child’s anxious behavior may be due to certain environmental experiences and situations that he has gone through. It is also likely that the child develops this disorder because of a combination of all the above factors.

The signs of whether a child has this mental illness or not, depends on the type of the disorder. Let us look at some of the anxiety disorders that can be found in children and the symptoms that occur with them.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Children with generalized anxiety disorder have fears and tensions that are not specific to anything in particular. They are tensed about everything in their life, including going to school, taking part in sports or cultural events, giving exams, etc. One important thing to note about this particular disorder is that, most often the fears or worries that the child experiences, are baseless. Children who have this disorder are likely to complain of frequent abdominal cramps, especially when they have to face the cause of their worries, for instance attending or not attending, or just about anything and everything.

Having phobias is very common among children. They may have an extreme fear of certain ordinary things and situations like water, storms, animals, heights, etc. They may also have a phobia of facing social situations due to some old experience at a public place. The main symptom of this disorder is that children try to make excuses in order to escape from the situations and things that arouse fear and tension in them.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Children with this disorder are said to have repetitive thoughts and patterns of behavior that are difficult to control. They are obsessed with a particular action and keep on doing the same thing, even though they know that it is futile. For instance, a child would constantly keep on checking whether he has finished his work, even if he knows that he has done it.

Separation Anxiety Disorder
When children are fearful of staying away from their parents, even for a short period, like going to school, they are said to have the above disorder. Such children always feel the need to be with their parents, as they have constant fear of losing them.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Children who have gone through a stressful and traumatic situation can develop a post-traumatic stress disorder. For instance, children can be severely affected if they have been a part of a painful event like a disaster or been a victim of child abuse. Children with this disorder are often not able to forget traumatizing events and think about them so much so that it disrupts their mental balance and adversely affect routine activities.

Recommended Treatment

If your child is showing signs of any of the above disorders, it is essential that you consult a child psychologist for immediate treatment because if not treated at the correct time, there are high chances that the child carries this disorder into his adulthood.

The treatment measure that is commonly given to children with anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy. In this treatment, the specialist tries to understand the cause of the child’s fears and teach him the skills to overcome fearful thoughts and behavior. Many times, the treatment is combined with medications that help in controlling physical symptoms. Parents are also included in the therapy, wherein they are given the training on how to deal with the child at home.

Anxiety disorders occurring in children can surely be a matter of concern for parents. However, proper care along with adequate medical treatment can help in making your child healthy and fearless individual.