We often associate childhood as a carefree, happy time in our lives. But increasingly we are seeing higher rates of depression, behavior, and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. Part of this may be that we are more aware that children experience anxiety but also, I think our society is creating a higher level of competition and expectations to achieve that are unhealthy and often result in a great deal of distress in our youth. As a society we also facing political strife, school shootings, poor race relations, global warning and currently a pandemic!
According to the CDC, 4.4 million or 7.1% of children aged 3-17 have diagnosed anxiety. Some estimates place the number at 10%, which makes it is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders for children. Anxiety is commonly misdiagnosed as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). If untreated, anxious children are at higher risk for poor grades, dropping out of school, social problems, physical symptoms, substance abuse and smoking/vaping. Anxiety is the most treatable emotional problem…the research shows that success rates with early recognition and proper treatment are excellent.
Anxiety is a necessary function of the healthy brain. It helps us anticipate danger or prepare for situations that impact our lives, such as wearing a seatbelt when driving or preparing before an exam. *Please read more under the Anxiety link under Individual Psychotherapy section. Please call me for a free 15 minute consultation to see if anxiety is affecting your child or teen.
Phobias contrast with normal fears, which are developmentally appropriate, are excessive and out of proportion to the demands of the situation, cannot be reasoned away, are beyond voluntary control, lead to avoidance, persist over time, and are maladaptive. Common fears include falling from a high place, having a burglar break into the house, getting poor grades, going into a dark room, and snakes. A phobia should be considered only when the fears are excessive and result in impairment in some area of the child’s functioning.
Separation Anxiety/School Phobia
This is one of the most common anxiety disorders in children. Excessive worry about being separated from their parents or other attachment figures is the essential feature. Generally, this occurs when the child enters kindergarten, but it can occur at any age. The reactions to separation are extreme and beyond what would be expected for the child’s developmental age. Usually, symptoms the child exhibits include unrealistic worry about harm to self or parents, school refusal (may appear that child is fearful of school but rather he is scared to leave the parent), reluctance to sleep alone or away from parents, repeated nightmares with themes of separation, and physical complaints (such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, vomiting) at times of separation or when anticipating separation.