Anxiety and depression are treatable, but 80% of children with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are not receiving treatment, and even more are not being diagnosed correctly. Anxiety spans a wide spectrum in children, adolescents, and young adults, from general to specific anxieties. See below for more information.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is identified by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things, expecting the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern. They anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. GAD is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months and has three or more symptoms.
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD)
OCD is characterized by recurrent intense obsessions and/or compulsions that cause severe discomfort and interfere with day-to-day functioning. As many as 1 in 200 children and adolescents show signs and symptoms of OCD, and these generally begin to surface in adolescence. The obsessions include thoughts, impulses, or images that are often recurring and persistent, generally unwanted by the child, causing intense anxiety and distress. Compulsions are repetitive, which include behaviors or rituals like hand washing and keeping things in order, or mental acts that involve counting of objects and silent repetition of words. In addition to causing significant anxiety and distress, these obsessions and can interfere with the child's day-to-day routine, and social, emotional, and academic progress.
FEARS & PHOBIAS
Fears and phobias in children can often be traced back to specific experiences, but in many cases there is no clear indicator as to what causes the fears to arise. Psychological evaluations and testing can help get to the root of these fears, and help form new associations for children experiencing difficulty with fears and phobias. The object of the fear or phobia can include different things at different ages for children, and there is research that shows 90% of children between the ages of 2 and 14 have at least one specific fear. However, in cases where these fears and phobias are extreme, treatment should be sought to address any potential underlying issues associated with those fears and phobias.
SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER
Children and adolescents who experience social anxiety disorder go through excessive and persistent fear of performance and social situations including trouble interacting at school, in after-school programs, and at events with friends and peers. Children with social anxiety disorder are constantly fighting the fear that they will embarrass themselves by doing something wrong. This can lead to harmful levels of self-consciousness, distress, and avoidance that is markedly different than just being shy or slow to engage with others. Social anxiety usually beings in adolescence, but can also occur as early as elementary or middle school.
Panic attacks in children are usually identified as such if a child experiences two or more panic attacks that come on suddenly and without warning, along with at least one month of persistent worry about having another attack. This ongoing concern can result in the avoidance of certain people, places, and situations for fear that they will trigger another attack, psychological or physical harm, and intense fear and unease resulting in both physical symptoms and intensely fearful thoughts. These physical symptoms manifest differently in every child, but can include increased heart rate, trouble breathing, sweating, trembling, stomach issues and trouble with digestion, body temperature changes, and dizziness or numbness. Thoughts can include extreme fear of losing their minds, or even dying.