Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can cause a child to worry almost every day about a lot of things. Children with GAD worry over things that most kids worry about, like homework, tests, or making mistakes.
But with GAD, children worry more, and more often, about these things. Children with GAD also worry over things parents might not expect would cause worry. For example, they might worry about recess, lunchtime, birthday parties, playtime with friends, or riding the school bus. Children with GAD may also worry about war, weather, or the future. Or they may worry about loved ones, safety, illness, or getting hurt.
Having GAD can make it hard for a child to focus in school. Because with GAD, there is almost always a worry on a child’s mind. GAD makes it hard for children to relax and have fun, eat well, or fall asleep at night. They may miss many days of school because worry makes them feel sick, afraid, or tired.
Some children with GAD keep worries to themselves. Others talk about their worries with a parent or teacher. They might ask over and over whether something they worry about will happen. But it’s hard for them to feel OK, no matter what a parent says.
Childhood anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychiatric problem in childhood anxiety treatment. These disorders cause severe impairment and excessive distress and are often treated with anxiety counseling. As an anxiety counselor in San Jose CA, I have been fortunate to help many children with anxiety.
Many children and adolescents feel anxious or stressed on the first day in a new school or when they have problems with their friends. They worry, their hearts beat faster, and they have butterfly feelings in their stomachs. These are usual anxious reactions connected to stresses in their lives; the reactions come and go with the stressful moments.
Clinical anxiety or anxiety disorders seen in anxiety counseling are much, much stronger versions of these normal feelings, and they are not always directly connected to stress. Young people with anxiety disorders have intense fear and worry. They also may develop problems sleeping and have physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches and nausea.
Common Anxiety Disorders in Children
Anxiety disorders cannot be controlled by will power, and they often come and go in unpredictable ways. They interfere with young persons’ everyday lives and keep them from doing usual activities.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States; about 13 percent of American children and adolescents are affected by Anxiety Disorders each year. In anxiety counseling, there are different kinds of anxiety disorders that affect children and adolescents:
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety Disorder results in extreme distress, worry and physical symptoms when a young person is separated from the people to whom he or she is most attached. Most often the fear and worry are related to a concern that harm will come to a loved one in the child’s absence.
Having trouble separating from familiar people is normal for very young children, but the trouble should lessen as a child grows older. If not, anxiety counseling is typically needed.
Separation Anxiety is likely to cause the most trouble when a child or adolescent must stay in a place that they cannot easily leave and return home, such as school or camp. Young persons with Separation Anxiety can often go to friends’ homes or out shopping without getting anxious because they can go home when they choose. Separation Anxiety should not be diagnosed when children or adolescents are living in truly dangerous situations where they could really be hurt when they are away from home.
About four percent of children and adolescents have Separation Anxiety Disorder. It often develops after the child or adolescent has had a traumatic experience, frequently requiring anxiety counseling.
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About the Author
Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. is a practicing therapist, researcher and author specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and related disorders. Dr. Fredricks is a best-selling author of numerous books on complementary and alternative treatments for mental health including Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Anxiety. For more information on Dr. Fredricks work, visit her practice website www.DrRandiFredricks.com.