Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders encompass mental health conditions characterized by intense fear, worry, or nervousness, often disrupting daily life. These may arise from specific triggers or be persistent without apparent cause. Examples include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder, presenting symptoms like rapid heartbeat, sweating, and avoidance behaviors.

In children and adolescents, anxiety disorders can manifest as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, or specific phobias. Generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive worry about daily events, while panic disorder features sudden, intense fear episodes with physical symptoms. Social anxiety disorder entails fear of social judgment, while separation anxiety involves distress when away from home or loved ones. Specific phobias are intense fears of specific objects or situations.

Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents can interfere with daily life and cause significant distress for the child or adolescent, as well as their family. If you are a parent or caregiver of a child or adolescent who is experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it is important to seek help from a licensed PRI mental health professional.

Some specific warning signs that may indicate the need for a higher level of care include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors Inability to perform everyday tasks or attend school
  • Extreme avoidance behaviors or panic attacks
  • Difficulty sleeping or eating
  • Severe physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, or vomiting

There are several effective therapies for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. Here are some of the most common and effective therapies:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps children and adolescents identify and challenge their anxious thoughts and behaviors, and learn coping strategies to manage their symptoms.
  • Exposure and response prevention (ERP): ERP is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing children and adolescents to the situations or objects that trigger their anxiety, and teaching them how to resist the urge to avoid or escape them.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT is a type of therapy that helps individuals learn to accept their anxious thoughts and feelings, and commit to taking actions that are consistent with their values and goals.
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR): MBSR is a type of therapy that combines mindfulness meditation with gentle physical exercises to help children and adolescents become more aware of their thoughts and emotions, and learn how to manage them in a non-judgmental way.
  • Play therapy: Play therapy involves the use of play activities to help children and adolescents express themselves, process their emotions, and learn coping skills. Family therapy.
  • Family therapy involves working with parents and other family members to improve communication, reduce stress, and support the child or adolescent in their recovery.

What can you do to help?

Encourage them to seek professional help from a therapist or doctor, and support them in finding a treatment plan that works for them. 

 Help them create a routine with healthy habits such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep. 

Be patient and understanding, as recovery from anxiety can be a gradual and ongoing process.

Avoid enabling their anxiety by accommodating their fears or reassurance-seeking behaviors, as this can reinforce the anxiety. ​

Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy, even if they don’t feel motivated to do so. 

Identify triggers, promote relaxation techniques, and provide empathetic support without giving unsolicited advice or trying to solve their problems.

It’s important to note that every child or adolescent is different and may require a unique combination of therapies that work best for them. It’s essential to consult with a PRI mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment for a specific child or adolescent. In some cases, medication may also be recommended as part of the treatment plan.

Do you have questions about Anxiety disorders​?

Consult these questions to better understand and assist: