What is it?
Everyone gets anxious, however when it begins seriously interfering with normal life then it can be considered an Anxiety Disorder. In children the feelings may be expressed as crying easily, stomach aches, headaches, or a feeling they can’t catch their breath. Some common types of Anxiety Disorders include:
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: where children get excessively anxious about being separated from a parent.
- Phobias: such as fear of insects, dogs, heights.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: a fear of social situations or performance situations.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: where children worry excessively and uncontrollably about daily life events.
- Panic Disorder: where people suffer from repeated panic attacks
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: a disorder that can develop after being involved in or witnessing a traumatic event.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: where the child has obsessive unwanted thoughts or repeated actions such as hand-washing or tapping.
Anxiety Disorders normally start in childhood and are about twice as common in females as males.
What causes it?
Since Anxiety Disorders are just an exaggerated from of normal behaviour it is difficult to establish and exact cause. There are definitely some genetic components and Anxiety Disorder tends to run in families. The part of the brain that processes fear and anxiety is the amygdala and if it is disrupted in some way it could lead to disorders. Brain chemistry is also likely a factor. Finally, the stress of life events can play a role in Anxiety Disorders.
Psychological counselling and Behaviour Therapy can help people manage their anxiety. Parental training is also helpful so that parents can support the child. Music Therapy may help with relaxation and breathing exercises. In some case medication is used, however caution should be used in giving powerful medication to children.
Excessive anxiety can occur with other mental disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder. It could also be a result of a learning disability or other issue.
Looking down the road
If anxiety orders are untreated then they can seriously interfere with a child’s performance at school and social life. It can also lead to substance abuse. With treatment many people learn to manage their anxieties.