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Is Your Child Just a Worrier Or Fighting A Disorder?

Anxiety is a growing mental health epidemic in people of all ages, but a surprising number of children and teens are struggling with an anxiety disorder. The Anxiety And Depression Association of America (ADAA) asserts that 1 in 8 children will be affected by an anxiety disorder. It is important to know the signs of anxiety disorders for children, as they present differently than in adults. Here is a quick look at the signs and symptoms of the different types of anxiety disorders in children.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s way of alerting your system to a potential threat so you can face it (fight) or escape it (flight). While prehistoric anxiety was tied to actual predators and physically dangerous situations, modern anxiety has more to do with social threats, health issues, or uncomfortable stressful situations such as public speaking. Anxiety brings on feelings of nervousness, agitation, fear, angst, tension or distraction. Every child experiences some anxiety as a normal part of life and development, but if your child’s anxiety becomes routine, or starts interfering with their everyday activities and quality of life, they may have an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of Common Youth Anxiety Disorders

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    GAD causes excessive, persistent and intrusive worrying about the future, bad things happening to people they love, physical illness, if their parents might get a divorce or become ill, natural disasters, and school performance just to name a few. GAD children spend an disproportionate amounts of time focused on troublesome thoughts to the point where worrying may interfere with social development, sleeping, homework and leisure time.
  2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    Youth OCD causes repeated and unwanted images, thoughts, obsessions or urges that make them anxious, and subsequently engage in compulsive behaviours in an attempt to reduce the anxiety and rid them off the intrusive thoughts. Children suffering from OCD may constantly count aloud, over-wash their hands, engage in repetitive gestures, pacing back and forth or other strange rituals. They may think that engaging in these compulsions will prevent bad things from happening, such as: “if I count back from 100 seven times in a row, I will never be involved in a car accident.”
  1. Panic Disorder
    This disorder is marked by a child experiencing sudden and often unprovoked panic attacks, followed by weeks of worrying when the next attack may occur. During a panic attack, your child may experience a rapid heartbeat, sweating, acute anxiety and tremors, among many other unpleasant symptoms.
  2. Social Anxiety Disorder
    Social anxiety disorder manifests itself in children or teenagers who are so intensely fearful and apprehensive of social blunders or not being accepted that they avoid any social situations at all costs. That may mean your child will fake stomach pains to avoid going to school or attending a sleepover, won’t attend parties, perform or even speaking to other people. Children who suffer from extreme social anxiety may even engage in selective mutism (when a child has the ability to speak and does so when comfortable, but chooses to stay completely silent in stressful or social situations).
  3. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 1
    PTSD occurs when a child is involved in a traumatic event such instances of abuse, a natural disaster, witnessing a crime, traumatic family events such as a death or divorce or a car accident. PTSD presents in children as such symptoms as flashbacks, jumpy behaviour, night terrors about the incident, fear and avoidance of triggering situations or people, “time skew” (when children misremember the incident and timeline, this symptom is mostly exclusive to children), anxiety and aggressive behaviours (especially in teens).

Thanks for visiting DocChat! Catch our post “Helping Your Child Decrease Anxiety” soon for tips to help your child deal with their anxiety.