Anxiety is an excessive fear about real or imagined circumstances
There are several types of anxiety disorders which include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Separation Anxiety
- Social Anxiety or Phobia
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things and occurring in a variety of settings.
Children with GAD may tend to:
- be very hard on themselves/strive for perfection
- seek approval or frequent reassurance from others.
- worry excessively about grades, family issues, friendships, and performance in sports.
Separation anxiety: A child experiences excessive anxiety away from home or when separated from parents or caregivers.
Children with Separation Anxiety may:
- Refuse to go to school
- Not want to attend play dates, sleepovers, camp
- Need someone to stay with them at bedtime
- Worry that something bad will happen to their parent/caregiver when they are apart
Social Anxiety: the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social situations
Children with Social Anxiety disorder may:
- refuse to play with peers
- exhibit clinging behavior, tantrums, or mutism
- come up with excuses to avoid social situations
- have difficulty forming friendships
- be fearful of being called on in class
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: prolonged anxiety that develops after experiencing harm or the threat of harm
Children with PTSD may:
- have difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- be easily irritated or angered
- have recurrent dreams about the event
- avoid people or places that remind them of the event
- lose interest in other activities
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: a disorder where intrusive thoughts interfere with daily functioning which then often compels the individual to repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors in an effort to ease their anxiety.
Children with OCD may:
- exhibit repeated (unrealistic) thoughts or behaviors
- demonstrate extreme obsessions and compulsions
- exhibit distress if their rituals are interrupted
- be resistant to stopping the compulsive behavior
- be socially isolated
- have difficulty concentrating in school
Panic Disorder: a condition where the individual experiences unpredictable panic attacks and has a persistent concern about future panic attacks. Symptoms of a panic attack could include heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, feeling dizzy, fear of losing control
Children with Panic Disorder may:
- appear to be suddenly frightened or upset without a clear reason
What are some of the general symptoms of anxiety?
At home, parents may notice some of the following symptoms:
- Frequent stomachaches or headaches
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty relaxing
- Not wanting to leave the parent's side
- Becoming upset when the parent is out of the room
- Worried about their safety
- Not wanting to go to play dates, birthday parties, etc
- Withdrawing from previously enjoyed activities
- Extreme fear of meeting new people (social anxiety)
- Avoiding social situations or performance situations (social anxiety)
- Anxiety/panic attacks- sweating, nausea, shaking, shortness of breath, chest discomfort
At school, staff may notice the following symptoms:
- Difficulty with changes in classroom routine
- Anxious about field trips or not wanting to attend
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
- School refusal or school reluctance
- Excessive worry about tests
- Difficulty separating from parent in the morning
- Frequent visits to the nurse
- Complaints of frequent stomachaches and headaches
- Avoiding tasks/specials
- Asking to call the parent
- Avoiding interactions with peers (esp social anxiety)
- Inability to speak with certain individuals/in certain situations (social anxiety)
It is important to remember that…
Experiencing some amount of anxiety is part of typical development!
Examples of some common fears at different stages of development:
- Infants/Toddlers: fear of strangers, loud noises, separation anxiety.
- Preschool/Early Elementary: fear of the dark, ghosts/monsters, animals, older kids, injury, natural disasters
- Later Elementary: worries about school performance, transitions to new schools, peer issues, fear of death
Experiencing some amount of anxiety is actually beneficial as it encourages a person to be:
- Careful when the situation warrants caution (ie. crossing a busy road, staying close to an adult in a large crowd, keeping distance from an unfamiliar dog)
- Prepared or organized (ie. studying for a test, preparing for a presentation, creating a schedule for a long-term project)
How to support your child at home:
- Remember that anxiety is not willful misbehavior. Be patient and ready to listen.
- Make time to listen to your child’s concerns. But children also may need a time limit on conversations about anxiety.
- Avoid treating anxious emotions, questions or statements as unimportant or silly. Being overly critical or impatient may make the problem worse.
- Have realistic, attainable goals and expectations for your child. Help them to understand that perfection is not expected.
- Make a plan. If your child is anxious about an upcoming event, talk through what might happen and any worries that your child has.
- Have consistent routines at home.
- Teach coping strategies such as staying organized, relaxation strategies, and using simple scripts for what to do or say
- Enlist your child’s help and suggestions for what might help to alleviate their anxiety. Children can be surprisingly insightful about what might be beneficial for them.