Anxiety Disorders in Children
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Childhood anxiety is more common than many people may imagine. At some point in their lives most children will experience some form of fear or anxiety. It might be because they are nervous about starting a new school, taking a test or one of the many trials of childhood. Thankfully in most cases these fears do not become totally irrational and develop into a panic attack or childhood anxiety disorder. However the fact is, that some children for a variety of reasons may start to show signs of anxiety or panic attack disorders. And for that child, anxiety is not something that they can easily understand.
Most right-thinking adult would like to protect children from things that may interfere with their lives — if you like to protect the innocence of childhood. The sad thing is that this is not always possible particularly in this modern age. And it’s true that children can be as much affected by certain types of anxiety disorders as can adults.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (G A D)
Generalised anxiety disorder can manifest itself in a child’s behaviour in a number of ways. Most commonly, they will start to worry excessively about things either at home or more commonly at school. Another common trait is that they will be excessively hard with themselves overly striving for perfection. Quite often you will find them continually redoing what can be quite basic tasks in order to get them to come out perfectly. You may also find that there is a constant desire to receive approval and reassurance from others.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is another type of anxiety disorder becoming more common in children. With OCD the Childs life is taken over by obtrusive and unwanted thoughts which can become quite obsessive.
They may also become caught up by the excessive need to follow a certain routine and repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviours in an effort to try and ease their anxieties.
The most common age for children to develop obsessive-compulsive disorders is around about the age of 10 years although it must be said it has also been seen in children as young as two. Size lookout for things like:
- Excessive hand washing
- Being overly concerned about accidentally doing something wrong
- Constantly rechecking the things that they do
- Constant talking or counting as an attempt to block out unwelcome thoughts.
Panic disorder is another childhood anxiety disorder that is becoming more common. As a panic attack for a child can be quite frightening for all concerned doctors tend to take more notice of panic attacks in children than they would say, for an adult. And unlike OCD, panic disorders appears less commonly in younger children although adolescents can still be affected by it
While similar to the adult diagnosis, a child who has suffered from at least two unexpected panic attacks and then gone for the next month worrying about whether they will have another one will almost certainly be diagnosed as having a panic disorder. .
Some children can also display symptoms of an anxiety disorder through manifesting specific phobias or irrational fears about specific objects, places or situations. Being afraid of things is all part of childhood. Many children are for a time frightened of some animals, the dark, storms and suchlike. The thing is being frightened of things like these is something that in most children passes quite quickly particularly with a bit of encouragement from a sympathetic adult or sibling. However, if the fear persists for something like six months and starts to interfere with their daily activities – then in many cases the child will be diagnosed as having a phobia or childhood anxiety disorder. Symptoms in these cases might include:
- Stomach ache
- Becoming clingy
- Freezing (stuck to the spot and not wanting to move when confronted with the fear)
Sometimes going through challenging experiences like the sudden death of a parent, being involved in an accident, natural disaster, witnessing a dramatic event or being subjected to a physical assault can lead to the child suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is another type of anxiety disorder in which children might display symptoms typically of:
- Not sleeping well
- Not wanting to eat
- Being emotionally numbed
- Reliving the events (either through nightmares all whilst playing)
- Fear of the event happening again
Obviously, these types of anxiety disorders can also be found in adults however it should be noted that the physical and emotional signs might be very different. This is because in the first place children don’t understand that their fears are irrational. Neither may they be able to talk about it — particularly to an adult.
As was said earlier things to watch out for are:
- Becoming excessively clinging
- Crying more than has been usual for them
- Throwing tantrums
- Inventing illnesses
Baring all these things in mind, it’s no use thinking that these type of childhood anxiety disorders will just go away on their own.
Quite often children don’t have the experience of life to know that something is wrong. Which is why it’s important that if you suspect a child has either a panic or anxiety disorder then a visit to the doctor may be in order.
One last thing …
Bear in mind also that the child is most likely to be worried about something in their environment whether that’s to do with school, home, friends or whatever. It’s the environment and the child’s attitude and understanding towards it to that needs fixing.
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