Walking from the daycare center, you hear your child’s voice calling out to you and crying hysterically. Coming back to the door, you find that you can only quell her crying when you are in her presence. Your child is experiencing an anxiety disorder, specifically, separation anxiety disorder.
Children are as susceptible to an anxiety disorder as any adult. We often thing that anxiety is something that comes with significant amounts of responsibility and relationships, but the truth is, children and teens also experience anxiety. It begins with school, when a child is forced to interact with peers, follow a strict schedule, and learn new things. An anxiety disorder can appear at any time, from any stressor or extreme fit of anxiety.
Each different age group tends to have typical disorders. Younger children mad experience separation anxiety and phobias, while older children may suffer from generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder (both of which can lead to depression). If these anxiety disorders are not treated properly, the child is more likely to perform poorly in school, have less social skills, and be more vulnerable to substance abuse.
Here are 4 common anxiety disorders found in children:
1. Separation Anxiety Disorder
A child, usually between the ages of 1-3, may experience anxiety when they are separated from their parent. This can cause a distraction in their schooling or daycare activities, as they are often left crying uncontrollably from being separate from their parents. Children can be fearful of their health and well being when they are away from their parents, because they have not known anything but the care and love of their parents.
Common symptoms of separation anxiety disorder include avoiding being alone, refusal to go to school, or demanding accompaniment to bed.
2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Usually occurring in children between the ages of 6 and 11, generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is characterized by extreme worry or anxiety over many things. Common anxieties that children experience include pressure to maintain grades, performance in sports, family issues, and health. These children often experience restlessness, insomnia, irritability, and inability to concentrate.
3. Specific Phobias
Children often experience phobias of specific objects or situations. A phobia is an intense, irrational fear associated with an object or situation. Children are considered to have a phobia if the fear persists for 6 months. Some common phobias among children include dogs, weather, blood, heights, darkness, and medical procedures (such as shots). Common symptoms include crying, clinging, headache, tantrums, and stomachache.
4. Social Anxiety Disorder
Also known as social phobia, this anxiety disorder is characterized by an intense anxiety associated with social situations. Many children are shy, but if the child constantly avoids social activities such as speaking in class, going to parties, or initiating conversations. Common symptoms of social anxiety disorder include hesitance in the spotlight, avoidance of conversations, avoiding eye contact, speaking softly, or sitting alone. Social phobia is often misdiagnosed, as many children are naturally shy and have a soft demeanor.