Most Common Anxiety Disorders in Children:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Children and teens with this disorder worry excessively and uncontrollably about daily life events and are often nicknamed “worry warts”. Their worries include fear of bad things happening in the future such as global warming or parents divorcing, being on time or making mistakes, a loved one becoming ill or dying, personal health, academic performance, world events, and natural disasters.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This is an anxiety disorder that can develop after being directly involved, witnessing, or learning about a frightening, traumatic event. This disorder can be extremely debilitating for the child and is far more than simply being upset for a few days after a scary event. Symptoms include ongoing upsetting vivid memories, nightmares, flashbacks of the event, increased arousal such as being jumpy or irritable, and avoiding reminders of the incident. One of the most common situations for a child to develop PTSD is from being in a significant automobile accident.
Social Anxiety Disorder.
These children and teens have an intense fear of social and/or performance situations because they worry about doing something embarrassing or being negatively judged by others. They may avoid social activities such as going to parties, performing in recitals, speaking to peers or adults, or might be having back to school anxiety. On the extreme end of this disorder is the rare condition Selective Mutism (children have the ability to speak but refuse to speak in social situations such as school).
Selective mutism is a childhood anxiety disorder that is diagnosed when a child consistently does not speak in some situations, but speaks comfortably in other situations. These children are capable of speaking yet are unable to speak in certain social situations where there is a demand to speak, such as at school, at dance class, at soccer practice, or at the corner store. In other situations, these same children may speak openly with others and may even be considered a “chatterbox”.
Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours.
Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours, or BFRBs, are a cluster of habitual behaviours that include hair pulling (called Trichotillomania), skin picking (called Skin Excoriation), nail biting, nose picking, and lip or cheek biting. In both Trichotillomania and Skin Excoriation, the individual experiences ongoing and repetitive engagement in either pulling out of one’s hair or skin picking (dependent on the disorder), resulting in noticeable hair loss, or skin abrasions or lesions. This occurs despite extensive efforts to stop these behaviours. In both disorders there is significant impairment or disruption in routine life functioning for the individual.
Separation Anxiety Disorder.
These children have excessive anxiety about being separated from parents and/or primary caregivers, such as a grandparent or a nanny, or the home. For example, they may cling or cry when a parent leaves the home, or refuse to go to school, on play dates, or to sleep alone in their own bed. They may not be able to be alone in a different room from the parent or caregiver even in their own home.
Specific Phobias. Phobias are characterized by persistent, excessive and unreasonable fears of an object or situation, which significantly interferes with life, and the child or teen is unable to control his/her fear. Some common phobias for children and teens include fear of dogs and insects, swimming, heights, loud noises, and injections (needles).
Pragya Lodha, MINDS Mumbai Program Director & Psychologist
Ankita Gupta, MINDS Research Associate
Anoushka Thakkar, MINDS Research Associate
Roshni Dadlani, MINDS Communications Lead
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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.
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