Anxiety Disorder in Children – Is This Even A Possibility?

While the frequency of anxiety disorders in children is unknown, it’s believed to be significantly under reported and under-diagnosed.

According to the most recent data that only reports on this condition among adults, the lifetime prevalence for anxiety disorders as a whole is about 25%. More specifically Social Anxiety Disorder has a lifetime risk of 17%, while Panic Disorder occurs in approximately 1-3% of the population.

So, we do know what a major problem this has become in our society but it’s shocking how prevalent anxiety disorder has become in our children.

It seems unlikely that anxiety disorder in children is actually possible. After all, childhood is supposed to be a carefree time in a person’s life. What worries can a child possibly have that would lead to such an “adult” condition?

Evidently, there are many in today’s society.

Anxiety disorder in children is growing among the population in the United States. In fact, anxiety symptoms and disorders are the number one health problem in America, and many of these are children including adolescents.

These disorders range from a simple Adjustment Disorder to more difficult and debilitating disorders such as Panic Disorder and Post traumatic Stress Disorder.

Even though we don’t know the actual occurrence of anxiety disorder in children many professionals believe that the frequency is higher than most would like to think it is. The main reason most of the cases go unreported and undiagnosed are due to the fact that they go unnoticed by the child’s family.

Sadly, the condition is treatable if detected. And the worst part is that most of these cases of anxiety disorder in children go undiagnosed and untreated for many years. Some are never treated for the condition at all.

Anxiety is a subjective sense of worry, apprehension, fear and distress. It’s normal to have these sensations on occasion, and so it is important to distinguish between normal levels of anxiety and unhealthy or pathologic levels of anxiety.

The subjective experience of anxiety typically has two components: physical sensations (e.g., headache, nausea, sweating) and the emotions of nervousness and fear.

Anxiety disorders, when severe, can affect a child’s thinking, decision-making ability, perceptions of the environment, learning and concentration. It raises blood pressure and heart rate, and can cause a multitude of bodily complaints, such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, ulcers, diarrhea, tingling, weakness, and shortness of breath, among others.

Medical literature provides much information on the growing problem of anxiety disorder in children. These documents assert that the condition is commonly overlooked by physicians and parents alike or it’s thought to be something else entirely.

When anxiety disorder in children is left untreated it will manifest itself as adult anxiety disorder in the children’s future. It doesn’t just go away as the adolescent moves into adulthood.

The problem with detection is that the symptoms are often insidious and difficult to pinpoint especially during a casual visit to the doctor’s office. There is commonly a sense of worry, fear and general distress among the individuals who have the disorder. It is quite normal to have these feelings throughout childhood.

However, anxiety disorder has greater ramifications than the normal feelings of distress and fear experienced by the average child. It’s crucial that parents are able to distinguish between normal levels of anxiety and overwhelming anxiousness in childhood. The symptoms of each are very similar but there are a few indicators that parents can be aware of to help in diagnosis.

Normal anxiousness is often accompanied by physical symptoms like headache, nausea, shaking and sweating. The overall feeling of nervousness and fear are very normal depending on the situation. These feelings are quite normal and manageable for the average child.

Anxiety disorder in children manifests itself in similar ways. However, the child will have many of the same physical symptoms but they will be more severe.

The headaches are unbearable. The individual is so nauseous that he vomits and the shaking and sweating become unmanageable.

The child’s ability to reason is disrupted. He may be unable to concentrate and learn. As a rule of thumb, remember that there is reason for concern if the condition interferes with the child’s ability to function in daily activities.

Anxiety disorder in children is definitely treatable. It just needs to be detected in time.

There are several convenient sources of information and support, many of which can be found on the internet or in your community’s libraries. Additionally, your physician, nurse, or counselor can be good sources of information.