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Different Types of Anxiety Disorders in Children

The most common types of anxiety disorders in children are social anxiety, separation anxiety and general anxiety disorder. There are six official anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • Phobic disorder

  • Panic disorder

  • Obsessive Compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Social Anxiety

There are also subsets of these different diagnosis and a child’s anxiety may express itself in any number of forms.

General Anxiety in Children

Kids with a general anxiety disorder are those who are natural worriers. They are like “premature adults,” says psychologist Philip C. Kendall, a pioneer in the field of cognitive behavioral therapy for kids. “They worry about the mortgage and the ozone layer and things well beyond their years and level of understanding.” (Peterson, 2008)

This type of anxiety is usually something intrinsic to a child’s nature, though it can also be brought on by environmental factors. General anxiety disorder creates many other specific fears and it may coexist with other developmental or psychological conditions.

Social anxiety in children

Kids with social anxiety will shrink away from situations that involve conversing with others. Hanging out in a crowd, interacting with an unfamiliar person, speaking in public or being the focus of attention provokes fear and anxiety in socially phobic children. Though these kids may behave normally around close friends and family, they struggle with other types of social interaction that their peers manage with ease.

Social anxiety in kids is often the result of an extremely shy temperament. It may also be related to behavioral or developmental disorders which make a child seem odd or difficult in the eyes of peers. But most importantly, it feeds on itself. Kids with social anxiety avoid the type of interaction that they so desperately need to improve their social skills. Thus they fall further and further behind their peers, becoming more alienated with each day this problem goes unaddressed.

Separation anxiety in children

Separating from parents is something all kids struggle with from time to time. But children with a separation anxiety disorder exhibit reactions that go well beyond the typical fussiness or occasional tears that are normal for kids their age.

Not only do they scream bloody murder when a parent leaves, but they seem to have difficulty attaching to other adults. They frequently express concern that something may happen to their parents while they’re gone or harbor unrealistic fears about being kidnapped or taken away.

-Other Types of Anxiety Disorders-

Academic Anxiety in Children

Usually the result of a parent’s over-emphasis on educational excellence, academic anxiety leaves kids paralyzed with a fear of failure. They worry about not measuring up to a parent’s expectations, and so school becomes a place of stress and anxiety that may even lead to panic attacks.

Trauma Related Anxiety

This is an anxiety problem that emerges in response to a specific traumatic event. For example, a child who witnesses their parent be attacked may develop anxiety problems around multiple fronts, developing separation and general anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

This is psychiatrist-speak for any anxiety issue that can’t be classified under the big three, and is used to diagnose kids who develop extreme anxiety related to unique things. It may also be applied when children exhibit uncontrollable crying, screaming, agitation, or other difficulties that can’t be pinpointed to a single source or trigger.

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