Understanding Anxiety Disorders in Children

Anxiety disorders in children are a common phenomenon. Despite this, it is impossible to gather data on the exact number of children afflicted by this disease.

The reason behind this is the disturbing fact that adults in charge of children often do not recognize warning signs and ignore symptoms mistaking them to be tantrums, common behavioral problems or overt shyness. As a result children suffering from anxiety disorders do not receive treatment at the right time and the numbers of incidence go undetected.


If anxiety disorder condition is correctly diagnosed in childhood it can be completely cured, through expert counseling and medication. Studies show anxiety disorders and depression in children that are left untreated can result in major psychological disorders in adulthood.

Manifestation of depression and anxiety in children therefore needs to be addressed at the earliest to reduce the chances of it developing into serious mental disorder in adulthood. The most common psychological orders that afflict children are -Separation Anxiety Attacks,  Depression, Over Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Social Phobia.

Adults need to understand that children are as prone to psychological disorders as they are. Child psychology is a separate stream in medicine in which medical doctors and psychologists train to understand and handle anxiety disorders in children.

Every disorder has characteristic symptoms by which it can be recognized. Recognizing signs of various disorders simplifies the task of caregivers in identifying children who might be potential candidates to certain type of anxiety disorders.

Separation Anxiety Attack – When Child Misses Parents

Many parents may witness anxiety disorders in children . It is often caused by fear of separation from parents and moving into a strange environment. Anxiety attacks become recurrent with children when they begin school. They may throw tantrums or feign illness in order to avoid going to school.

Children with anxiety disorder often complaint of stomach ache when they are asked to do something they are anxious about. Parents feel it is a ploy for not going to school, while it actually is a symptom of anxiety attack that requires medical attention. Common symptoms of separation anxiety attack are -Bed wetting , Stomach aches, Headaches, Constant emotional turmoil and  Crying.

Depression – No Longer an Adult Problem

Children suffering from depression are quiet, sad and loners. They have no friends and make no attempt to mingle with children their age. They would rather be alone than be found in the play ground. Unlike adult depression which is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, childhood depression is a result of environment.

Children belonging to violent and abusive families are often depressed. Children, who are victim to physical abuse, have lost a parent or been through a traumatic experience can also become depressed. Children with depression can generally be identified through the following traits -Unusually quiet Inactive Cheerless Unenthusiastic Reclusive Have nightmares

Over Compulsive Disorder (OCD)- More than being organized

Most children grow up with fears and doubts, but these are within reasonable limits. In children suffering from OCD the fears and actions reach a different magnitude and become obsessions. These children behave peculiarly. For instance they keep clearing their throat for no reason or hoard unusual things. Their behavior is noticeably different from normal kids. Common obsessions that children with OCD have are –

  • Fear of germs
  • Obsession with body waste
  • Ominous fears, Need to be organized to the extent of being precise about order and symmetry

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)- Problems with an overactive child

ADHD is primarily a development disorder where children lack concentration. They are hyperactive and unable to remain focused for long. This is one of the most common behavioral problems found in young children. The condition is thought to be genetic, but environment is also known to play a part. Signs and symptoms of ADHD include –

  • Impatience
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Inability to follow instructions
  • Get bored easily

Social Phobia – Is not about lack of social skills

Social phobia can easily be confused for depression as the symptoms are quite similar. Children suffering from social phobia stay away from company, even if it means missing out on an outing. Children with this disorder have an inferiority complex and feel they are not the same as other children their age.

The disorder could stem from disparity in social status of the child’s family and his schoolmates or could be a figment of his imagination. Such children feel their clothes, toys and other belongings are inferior to what others have and choose to remain on their own instead of mixing with others.

Social phobia makes children -Isolated Reclusive and Quiet. Child anxiety according to studies is often genetically acquired. It is crucial to seek professional help for anxiety disorders in children so they do not develop severe psychotic problems as adults.