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Oregon Family Magazine

How To Spot And Treat Anxiety In Children

08/27/2023 ● By Ayushi Singh
Anxiety disorder in children is a common and significant mental health condition that can have a
profound impact on a child's well-being and daily functioning. Anxiety is a normal emotion that
everyone experiences, but when it becomes excessive, persistent, and interferes with a child's
daily life, it can be classified as an anxiety disorder.
“Anxiety in children can vary, but tends to manifest as worrying about a number of things in life
(school, home, family, etc). It can be normal for children to worry about things that are out of
their control, but not being able to control the worry can be a sign of anxiety. This anxiety may
be associated with restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, sleep disturbances, or muscle
tension,” says Brittany Odom, MD. Anxiety disorders in children can have a significant impact on
their emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being. They may interfere with a child's ability to
engage in everyday activities, such as school, socializing, and family life.
Understanding Anxiety Disorder in Children
Anxiety disorder in children is characterized by excessive and persistent worry or fear about
everyday situations or events. It goes beyond the typical worries that children may experience in
their day-to-day lives and can significantly impact their daily functioning and well-being. Here
are some key points to understand about anxiety disorder in children:

● Restlessness or fidgeting: Difficulty sitting still or constantly moving their body.
● Irritability or moodiness: Increased irritability, mood swings, or getting easily upset or
● Difficulty concentrating: Trouble focusing or sustaining attention.
● Sleep disturbances: Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or frequent
nightmares/night-time awakenings.
● Physical complaints: Unexplained stomach aches, headaches, or other physical
● Avoidance of triggering situations: Trying to avoid situations or activities that trigger
● Excessive worry or fear: Persistent worry or fear about everyday situations or events.
● Changes in behavior or academic performance: Changes in behavior, aggression,
withdrawal, or decline in school performance.
● Need for constant reassurance or approval: Seeking constant reassurance or approval
from others.
● Cautious or fearful behavior: Overly cautious or fearful, avoiding new or unfamiliar
● Hypervigilance or being constantly on high alert: Always on high alert or easily startled.
● Changes in appetite: Changes in food intake, eating patterns, or loss of interest in food.
● Internalizing anxiety may not display obvious signs: Some children may not exhibit
obvious external signs, but may experience internal distress or discomfort.
Types of Anxiety Disorders in Children
● Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Excessive worry and anxiety about everyday
situations or events.
● Separation Anxiety Disorder: Fear or anxiety about being separated from caregivers,
leading to distress and avoidance.
● Social Anxiety Disorder: Extreme fear or anxiety about social situations, leading to
avoidance and withdrawal.
● Specific Phobias: Excessive fear or anxiety about specific objects, situations, or events.
● Panic Disorder: Recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, accompanied by physical
● Selective Mutism: Difficulty speaking in certain situations, despite fluency in other

How Is Anxiety in Kids Diagnosed?
“Most pediatricians and behavioral specialists will use the Screen for Child Anxiety Related
Disorders (SCARED) to evaluate for anxiety. This tool includes questions related to generalized
anxiety, social anxiety, separation anxiety, school avoidance, and panic attack symptoms. We
then can take the data from this assessment and see if the child meets diagnostic criteria for
anxiety based on how long symptoms have been present and other factors,” Brittany said.
It's important to seek evaluation and diagnosis from a qualified professional to ensure accurate
identification and appropriate treatment for anxiety in kids. Each child is unique, and a comprehensive assessment is essential in guiding the appropriate treatment plan for their
specific needs. It's crucial to ensure that the diagnostic process is conducted in a thorough and
professional manner to provide the child with the best possible care and support for their mental
health and well-being.

Treatments for anxiety disorders in children
Early intervention and appropriate treatment can help children effectively manage their anxiety
and prevent it from worsening. Here are some common treatment approaches for anxiety in
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps children identify and
change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to anxiety. It equips them with coping
skills, relaxation techniques, and problem-solving strategies to manage their anxious thoughts
and behaviors.
Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed by a qualified healthcare professional
to help manage severe symptoms of anxiety in children. Antidepressant or anti-anxiety
medications may be used, but their use in children should be carefully monitored and managed
by a qualified healthcare professional.
“Effective treatment options for children with anxiety may include cognitive-behavioral therapy
(CBT), medication, or a combination of both. CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps children
learn coping skills and strategies to manage their anxiety. Medications such as selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be used in certain cases. Parents and caregivers can
support these efforts by attending therapy sessions with their child, practicing coping skills at
home, and creating a supportive and reassuring environment,” says Dr. Zeeshan Afzal, MD,
Medical Officer at
Parental involvement: Parents play a crucial role in supporting their children's anxiety treatment.
They can learn strategies to help their children manage anxiety, provide a supportive and
validating environment, and encourage healthy coping skills.
Lifestyle changes: Encouraging healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, sufficient sleep,
and a balanced diet can also positively impact a child's mental health and help reduce anxiety.
Relaxation techniques: Teaching children relaxation techniques such as deep breathing,
mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation can help them manage stress and anxiety.

Anxiety in children is a treatable condition that requires a multi-faceted approach involving
therapy, medication, parental involvement, and healthy lifestyle habits. By recognizing the signs
early, seeking appropriate diagnosis we can help children effectively manage their anxiety and
improve their well-being. It's important to collaborate with qualified professionals, create a supportive environment, and promote healthy coping skills. With the right support, children with
anxiety can overcome their challenges and lead fulfilling lives. Remember, early intervention
and a holistic approach are key to helping children thrive and flourish.