Anxiety Disorders in Children

Sadly, it isn’t only adults who experience chronic and overwhelming levels of anxiety. Anxiety disorders are also common in children. While childhood should be a carefree, happy time, it isn’t always the case.

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

If a child is suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, he or she will spend a huge amount of time worrying. The child will worry about both events in the past and the future. It’s normal to worry about stressful situations like exams and first dates, but when worrying starts to interfere with normal life, then a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder is often made.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is characterized by symptoms of panic attacks (also known as anxiety attacks). Panic disorder is much more common in adults, but it does happen in children. Panic attacks are short, incredibly distressing episodes with feelings of chest pain and difficulty breathing. They are usually accompanied by psychological symptoms such as fear of death or fear of going insane.

Specific Phobias

Just like adults, children often suffer from an intense and irrational fear of specific objects, animals or situations. It’s not uncommon for children to be afraid of things, but when the fear becomes so intense that it interferes with living – it is defined as a phobia.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

It’s not uncommon for young children to feel distressed about being away from their parents. However, most children get used to the idea that they will be separated from their parents some of the time. When they don’t, it is known as separation anxiety disorder.

Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is a condition where the child refuses to speak in certain (but not all) situations. This is often caused by social anxiety. Some children are just quiet and introverted, but when selective mutism begins to cause problems with education and social communication, it becomes classed as an anxiety disorder.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It was once thought that only adults suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, but in recent years compulsive behavior has been observed in children too. Obsessive compulsive behavior is overly time consuming repeated thoughts or actions that cause problems in daily life.

Social Phobia

Social phobia is an intense fear of bad things happening in social situations. This includes fear of embarrassment and humiliation. Children suffering from social phobia become terrified that they will look stupid or do something that might make other children make fun of them. Some children are very shy, but social phobia is very different.  Social phobia is a much more intense and debilitating condition than mere shyness. It’s a fear that negatively affects every aspect of a child’s life.


Anxiety disorders in children are fairly common. While severe problems are gratifyingly rare, there are many children out there who suffer from mild anxiety disorders.

Luckily, children have very malleable minds, and mild anxiety disorders can be treated in children before they become more serious. Remember, you should always have a child assessed for anxiety disorders by a qualified and accredited therapist.


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