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January 5, 2012

Anxiety Disorders in Children

Just as in adults, a certain amount of anxiety is normal in children of every age. In fact, anxious feelings are such a part of growing up that psychologists outline anxieties to expect in kids as they grow. For example, infants as young as eight months may experience intense anxiety about being apart from their parents. This separation anxiety often lasts through the preschool years. Young children - generally aged three to six - often worry about things that are not based in reality. This is the age when kids express fear of monsters, ghosts, and the dark. From about seven years old and onward, children may express anxiety about real circumstances such as natural disasters, physical injury, and even death. And kids of any age - particularly teenagers - may express anxiety about certain social situations. Some of these anxieties can be helpful to kids, as a bit of unease can keep them alert and focused during moments of tension. And others keep them safe, like when a child is afraid of - and consequently avoids - fire or strangers. But just as anxiety can be helpful, it can also become a hindrance if it persists. Often, intense anxiety can manifest physically in a child as stomachaches, headaches, chest pain, body aches, a racing heart, and accelerated breathing. Anxious children often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Their ability to concentrate may suffer or they may lose interest in previously enjoyable activities and people. Often, children with anxiety disorders seem irritable and agitated and they may show signs of low self-esteem, or unrealistic expectations of themselves. All of these signs of severe tension should be taken seriously! That's because unresolved anxieties and fears in children can lead to lingering anxieties and fears in adults. Plus, anxious children often don't learn vital skills, such as coping with day-to-day life and engaging in meaningful social interactions. So if you're the parent of a child who seems unusually anxious, make time to talk to her health care provider.

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Last Updated:
December 20, 2012