Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health disorders in children, affecting nearly 13% of young people. Overall, nearly 1/4 of the population will experience an anxiety disorder over the course of their lifetimes.

Children and adolescents with anxiety disorders experience extreme feelings of panic, fear, or discomfort in everyday situations. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress; but if a child’s anxiety becomes excessive or irrational and they avoid feared situations to the extent that it interferes with daily life, they may have an anxiety disorder. Occasional anxiety is an expected part of life. Children might feel anxious when faced with a problem, before taking a test, or before making a decision. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a child with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.

Common types of anxiety disorders in children:
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorders
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Specific Phobias

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of many of these anxiety disorders begin in childhood or adolescence. Symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Intense fear reaction to object or situation
  • Persistent recurring thoughts (obsessions) and engaging in compulsive ritualistic behaviors in order to reducethe anxiety associated with these obsessions
  • Reliving a traumatic event
  • Avoidance behaviors
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Experiencing six months or more of persistent, irrational, and extreme worry

Learn more about anxiety disorders in the Children’s Mental Health Matters Anxiety Disorder Fact Sheet.



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