Anxiety and Stress in Children

While universally accepted as a common problem, stress and anxiety in children is very often difficult to diagnose correctly and can manifest itself in many different ways. All children react differently to external and internal stresses and their reaction to anxiety is subject to the maturity and coping mechanisms of the individual child. Age is also, to some degree, a predictor of a child’s reaction to stress. While pre-schoolers may not be able to articulate their feelings appropriately when subjected to stress, many adolescents can clearly express their feelings – though their parents may not be the first people they turn to. In the vast majority of cases, fear and anxiety in children tends to change or disappear with age. Fear of the dark is a classic example of this scenario.

The source of anxiety and stress in children can be something external, such as a problem at school, changes in the family, or a conflict with a friend. Anxiety and stress in children can also be caused by a child's internal feelings and pressures, such as wanting to do well in school or fit in with peers. It is important for a parent to determine whether the anxiety and stress that their child is going through is a temporary annoyance or something that is more deep-seated. Only then can appropriate measures be taken to alleviate a child’s stress and anxiety.

ANXIETY

While anxiety disorders have been recognized for centuries, psychiatrists have been treating this group of diseases which include abnormal or pathological fears, only since the end of the 19th century. It is estimated that as many as 18% of the population in America suffers to some degree from these maladies. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common chronic disorder characterized by non-specific persistent fear and worry. Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder to affect older adults.

Panic disorder

Trembling, shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing are telltale signs of a person who is suffering from a panic disorder. These panic attacks, defined by the APA as fear or discomfort that abruptly arises and peaks in less than ten minutes, can last for several hours. Although the specific cause is not always apparent, the attacks are often triggered by stress, fear, or even exercise.
Panic disorder is a disease with chronic consequences. Sufferers either worry over the attacks' potential implications, persistent fear of future attacks, or significant changes in behavior related to the attacks. Even sublime changes like a change in heart rate can lead a patient to believe that something is terribly wrong or that they are about to suffer another attack.

Phobias

The most common anxiety disorder is caused by a phobia which is defined as fear and anxiety which are triggered by a specific stimulus or situation. These phobias may be caused by an object, a surrounding an encounter or any external stimulus. The sufferer will tend to avoid these stimuli at all costs. These avoidance behaviors can often have serious consequences; in severe cases, one can even be confined to one's home.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (SAD; also known as social phobia) describes an intense fear and avoidance of negative public scrutiny, public embarrassment, humiliation, or social interaction. Social anxiety often manifests specific physical symptoms, including blushing, sweating, and difficulty speaking. Like with all phobic disorders, those suffering from social anxiety often will attempt to avoid the source of their anxiety; in the case of social anxiety this is particularly problematic, and in severe cases can lead to complete social isolation.

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