What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders.
Children and adolescents with anxiety disorders typically experience excessive anxiety, worry, and/or fear that is difficult to control, and interferes with their day to day functioning. Anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Children and adolescents with Panic Disorder experience repeated, unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is a period of intense fear that is accompanied by symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fear of dying. Children and adolescents who suffer from panic attacks often avoid certain situations due to the fear that a panic attack will occur.
Children and adolescents with phobias experience intense fear and anxiety related to specific objects or situations. Fear and avoidance of the object or situation often interferes with the child’s daily functioning.
Children and adolescents with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience excessive anxiety and worry that is difficult to control. This anxiety and worry is usually out of proportion with the likelihood that a feared situation or event will occur. For example, anxiety may be associated with academic performance, even though the child is doing well in school. Observable symptoms of GAD include difficulty concentrating, restlessness, irritability, and sleep difficulties. Children and adolescents with GAD may also present with physical complaints such as recurring headaches.
Children with Separation Anxiety Disorder experience extreme anxiety when they are separated from the home, or from significant attachment figures. This level of distress is beyond that which would be expected given the child’s developmental level. Situations that typically cause anxiety include attending school, spending the night at a friend’s house, or going to bed alone. Children with this disorder often fear that something bad will happen to the parent (or other attachment figure) should they become separated.