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Anxiety is a pervasive problem in our society. It can be a fear of heights, not wanting to go to school or worry about speaking in front of a group. Maybe it’s staying up all night so that your project is flawless, obsessing over meaningless details, or heart palpitations on your way to a meeting.
In fact, eight percent of youth ages 13-18 have been given an anxiety diagnosis, with symptoms typically beginning at age six. Further, 18% of adults, or about 40 million people in the United States, are affected by anxiety in a given year. Those 40 million adults were once children who likely suffered from anxiety.
What are Common Types of Anxiety?
• Generalized Anxiety
• Panic
• Phobias
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
• Social Anxiety
• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Agoraphobia
• Separation Anxiety
• Perfectionism
What are Signs that a Child has Anxiety? Anxiety can occur at any age, depending on the child’s biological sensitivity, personality traits, and the presenting situations and stressors. Anxiety can be readily apparent, as when children worry constantly (“What if something bad happens”) when they begin to cry “for no reason,” when they talk about being scared, or when they are suffering from their endless drive toward perfection.
Anxiety also can take many forms including avoidance. Children, and adults for that matter like to avoid what they are afraid of. For example, children who have undiagnosed learning problems may avoid school, or ask to go to the bathroom just before it’s their turn to read out loud. Out of sight, out of mind.
In some cases, children may begin to act out verbally or physically when anxious, causing their behavior to be misinterpreted as “Oppositional Defiant Disorder.”
When Should Parents Seek Professional Help? Parents should seek professional counseling or treatment when there’s a noticeable change in a child’s behavior or the child’s functioning becomes significantly impacted – for example, when the child’s often sick, not sleeping well, melting down regularly, avoiding required responsibilities like school and family obligations, and social activities like birthday parties and sports. Treatment should also be sought when children refuse to participate in an activity they previously enjoyed due to worry, fear, or avoidance.
If you are concerned about the level of your child’s worry or fear, please call or email a professional right away.
*This article is based on the professional information from Dr. Dan Peters and his office Summit Center.