Anxiety disorders in children are not very different from anxiety disorders of adults. The feelings of worry and fear and an acute sense of helplessness that impairs their thinking is quite similar to what an adult may face in the similar disorder. The difference is that children have an increased physical and psychological reaction to the stress factor that triggers the anxiety disorder.
This means that they react faster and with more emotion to the perceived stress and need to be controlled quickly by the parent or health care provider. Here are 3 commonly seen anxiety disorders in children:
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD
The child tends to worry in excess about all kind of issues related to family, school tests, friend relationships and performance in general.
They want to be perfect in everything they do and if they can’t be first all the time they get panic attacks.
2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD
Here there is an intrusive obsession with rituals. The single act will be performed repeatedly to the exclusion of all else. For instance the left socks must always be worn before the right one.
Or the hands must be washed each time he has to open the door. If the routine task is interrupted there will be a great deal of anxiety expressed both verbally and physically.
Separation anxiety is seen first in children aged between 18 months to 3 years. The primary care giver is now identified by the child and when this person is not visible for an extended time period the child can get anxious. Most children suffer from a mild version of the disorder and this is normal.
Some of them continue to feel this anxiety even in the age group of seven to ten years. This is not normal and needs to be dealt with by the parents and care givers.
How to manage anxiety disorders in children
Dealing with anxiety disorders in children is primarily the job of the adult care taker. The parent has to be aware of the symptoms of the disorder and be able to help the child manage them. The two pronged approach to managing anxiety disorders includes using therapy and medication. Therapy can help the child learn about disruptive thinking that can lead to behavior patterns that are undesirable.
They can be trained to catch themselves before the mental stress becomes manifest to such an extent that it immobilizes them physically.
If the meditative techniques in therapy do not show much improvement the psychiatrist may add medication to the child’s treatment. The medication must be monitored regularly and changed as per the child’s progress. Not all children may need to be medicated to get through anxiety disorders. It is pertinent to remember that children are quite emotionally open and tend to freely express these emotions.
This does not really need medical treatment but firm parental guidance. The main key to diagnosing anxiety disorders in children is when the anxiety and fear starts affecting them by immobilizing them.