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Anxiety & Worry in Children and Teens

Every child is faced with challenging situations that can lead to or trigger anxiety. Anxiety often looks different in children than in adults because children do not have the same coping and communication skills many adults have learned. The anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, avoidance behaviors, complaints of physical problems or pain, etc. Helping children with anxiety involves teaching skills such as new ways of thinking and coping. There are various types of anxiety disorders that are seen in both children and adults. To be classified as a disorder, the anxiety must be intense, persistent, and interfere significantly with daily life. Several kinds of anxiety:

  1. Generalized Anxiety – Occurs when children are teens are not able to shut off their worries. While their worries are about real-life problems like school, health, family, money, friends, etc., the extent of the worry and the duration of the worry is excessive. These children often have accompanying physical symptoms of anxiety include tight muscles, stomach aches or upset stomach, and difficulty concentrating.
  2. Social Anxiety – Occurs when children and teens have significant anxiety and self-consciousness in social situations. This is more than a child or teen simply being introverted or somewhat shy. Rather, children with social anxiety feel high anxiety and distress in social situations and will often seek to avoid these situations whenever possible.
  3. Separation Anxiety – All children go through various degrees of separation anxiety when they experience parting from their major caregivers. Children and teens with separation anxiety disorder experience excessive anxiety that does not decline with age and they have the opportunity to expand their social horizons.
  4. Other Anxiety Disorders There are numerous other manifestations of anxiety that can affect children including selective mutism (i.e., a child who is able to speak at home is unable to speak in social settings outside of the home) and school refusal (i.e., refusing to go to school due to anxiety).

For Further Information:

Worry Wise Kids
This site gives practical advice for dealing with anxiety in children.

Helpful Videos on Childhood Anxiety Disorders
In these brief videos, Dr. Aureen Pinto Wagner discusses separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, school refusal, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

What to Do (and Not Do) When Children are Anxious [Child Mind Institute]


Screening Tools 

Screen for Child and Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED) Child Version
This free, 41-item screening inventory for children 8-18 years old can help to identify symptoms of a variety of anxiety problems.  For children 8-11 it is recommended that an adult explain the questions or have the child answer the questionnaire while sitting with an adult.

Screen for Child and Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED) Parent about Child Version
This free, 41-item screening inventory allows parents/caregivers to identify the presence and severity of anxiety disorder symptoms in children 8-18.


Books

Worried No More – Help and Hope for Anxious Children  amazon.com
Author: Aureen Wagner, Ph.D.
This 182-page book describes effective ways for parents, schools, and healthcare professionals to work collaboratively to help children cope with worry, school refusal, separation anxiety, excessive shyness, panic, disasters and tragedies, phobias, obsessions, and compulsions.

 

What to Do When You Worry too Much  amazon.com
Author: Dawn Huebner, Ph.D.
This is an 80-page, interactive self-help book designed to guide 6-12 year olds and their parents through the cognitive-behavioral techniques most often used in the treatment of generalized anxiety.

 

Dealing with Feelings: I’m Scared  amazon.com
Author: Elizabeth Crary
This booklet helps children learn how to deal with fear in positive ways.