Anxiety Disorders in Children

Posted at 4:45 pm on 01/21/2015 by Powlin V. Manuel MD, MBA, MS.
Anxiety disorders are very common in children. In my practice of over 40 years, I have seen anxiety disorder  in children manifesting in many different ways. It can include issues such as going backward on toilet training to having severe stomach pain in the morning . Often it is hard for a pediatrician to tell the parents that the symptoms are due to an emotional issue, as they refuse to accept the suggestion. The anxiety disorders encountered in our daily practice include:

Acute stress reaction causes anxiety in many children, usually last for less than 30 days. Common situations we encounter in children  include death of family members or friends, and divorce of parents. Any stress can can induce an acute stress reaction; children usually handle these situations and come out after finding a resolution in their own mind. One of the common situations we find are acute stress reaction after the school opens, the symptoms showing up as headaches, abdominal pain, and chest pain. Over a period of about 30 days these symptoms should resolve. It is important for parents to understand that the symptoms are due to acute stress reaction, once the physician has ruled out any physical disorder. It is prudent to be aware of any bullying is school that could induce a stress reaction leading to tendency for school avoidance. Occasionally, this could be part of manifestation of generalized anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder manifests commonly as headache, and abdominal pain. This is one of the most common reasons for children being brought from school for a physician’s visit.

Separation anxiety often manifested as fear of separation from parents; Social anxiety – social phobia – is also common.

 Obsessive-compulsive neurosis in which children show a tendency to stick with certain behaviors for no specific reason. PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder also is prevalent in children, often even a memory of a previous attack by a dog can result in avoidance behavior. Specific phobias: fear of specific situations such as fear of darkness; Selective mutism is one of the rare cases of anxiety in children.

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