Anxiety disorders affect approximately 1 in 9 children; they are the most prevalent psychiatric condition among children, but also the most treatable. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive and uncontrollable worry. Since most children have worries and fears, it can be confusing to know if your child has an anxiety disorder or not. Below are some red flags to look for:
- Demonstrates excessive distress which is out of proportion to the situation
- Repetitive questions to get reassurance, “what if” concerns
- Worries hours, days, and weeks ahead of event
- Perfectionism and overly responsible
- Avoidance of school and activities
- Difficulty going to school, friends’ houses, birthday parties
- Excessive time spent consoling child with every day activities and/or excessive time coaxing child to perform normal activities.
Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents and it is something that parents can help with and use at home. With CBT, children learn how they can control unpleasant thoughts and feelings. CBT includes the following components:
- Education: the therapist teaches the child (and parent) how anxiety develops and the skills needed to reduce
- Cognitive Restructuring: with the help of the therapist the child identifies anxiety-producing thoughts and learns realistic coping skills
- Exposure: practicing responses one step at a time. A fundamental concept in CBT is that anxiety is reduced by approaching rather than avoiding sources of discomfort. We do this by breaking the situation down into manageable chunks.
Below are some links to further reading on this topic as well as books for both parents and children: