Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in youth, affecting more than 10 percent of children and adolescents at some point in their development. Children with learning and attention issues may be even more likely than their peers to worry about school, social activities and change. Without treatment, childhood anxiety is likely to persist, negatively affecting a child’s social and family functioning and overall quality of life. Anxiety disorders increase the risk of adult disorders, including future anxiety as well as depression, substance use disorders and suicide.
Separation anxiety disorder is a condition in which a child becomes fearful and nervous when away from home or separated from a loved one usually a parent or other caregiver to whom the child is attached. Some children also develop physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches at the thought of being separated. The fear of separation causes great distress to the child and may interfere with the child’s normal activities such as going to school or playing with other children.
Psychotherapy is the main treatment approach for separation anxiety disorder. The focus of therapy is to help the child tolerate being separated from the caregiver without the separation causing distress or interfering with function. A type of therapy called cognitive behaviour therapy works to reshape the child’s thinking (cognition) so that the child’s behaviour becomes more appropriate. Family therapy also may help teach the family about the disorder and help family member’s better support the child during periods of anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications may be used to treat severe cases of separation anxiety disorder.
Children with social anxiety disorder feel symptoms of anxiety or fear in certain or all social situations, such as meeting new people, participate in co-curricular activities, answering a question in class. Doing everyday things in front of people such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public restroom also causes anxiety or fear. The person is afraid that he or she will be humiliated, judged, and rejected. Some children with the disorder do not have anxiety in social situations but have performance anxiety instead. They feel physical symptoms of anxiety in situations such as giving a speech, playing a sports game, or dancing or playing a musical instrument on stage.
The first step to effective treatment is to have a diagnosis made by a Psychologist, Clinical psychologist or Psychiatrist. Social anxiety disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy medication or both.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry about a variety of events. It is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches, muscular tension, restlessness, heart palpitations, and stomach upset. Children and adolescents with GAD may worry excessively about their performance and competence at school or in sporting events, about personal safety and the safety of family members, or about natural disasters and future events.
The difference between normal feelings of anxiety and the presence of generalized anxiety disorder is that children with GAD worry more often and more intensely than other children in the same circumstances. Children with GAD tend to worry about the same things as their non-anxious peers but they do so in excess. These worries and associated symptoms cause significant distress and impair daily functioning. Children with GAD are often overly self-critical and avoid activities in which they feel that may not be able to perform perfectly. They also tend to seek frequent reassurance from caregivers, teachers, and others about their performance, although this reassurance only provides relief from their worries.
Early identification and effective management can help reduce the severity of symptoms. Psychotherapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, are among the most researched and promising treatments for childhood anxiety. In certain instances, medication in combination with psychotherapy may also recommend for treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.
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Jayesh K.G is an experienced and eminent Psychologist based in Thrissur and Kochi. He is currently working as Consultant Psychologist & Child Specialist at POSITIVE Psycho therapeutic Clinic, Thrissur. He worked as a Consultant Psychologist, Dept. of Child and Adolescent Guidance Clinic, Healing Minds-A clinic for mind wellness, Kochi. He is also leading the Department of Child and Adolescent Guidance Clinic at CHILD Development & Psychotherapy Clinic, Kodungallur and Olive Health Care, Vatanapalli. Jayesh undertakes programs to increase awareness regarding mental health issues among the general population with the help of visual and print media.view more