Childhood Anxiety Disorders are the most frequently diagnosed behavioral health condition among children and teens.
Here is a brief description of the most common childhood anxiety disorders. Please note that these descriptions are not intended to be used for self-diagnosis. Only a qualified behavioral healthcare professional can determine if your child is suffering from a childhood anxiety disorder. If you suspect your child may be suffering from childhood anxiety, we encourage you to use the Heads Up Checkup symptom checker to validate your observations and concerns.
Types of Childhood Anxiety Disorders
Separation Anxiety Disorder
These children have excessive anxiety about being separated from parents and/or primary caregivers, such as a grandparent or a nanny, or the home. For example, they may cling or cry when a parent leaves the home, or refuse to go to school, on play dates, or to sleep alone in their own bed. They may not be able to be alone in a different room from the parent or caregiver even in their own home.
Selective mutism is a childhood anxiety disorder that is diagnosed when a child consistently does not speak in some situations but speaks comfortably in other situations. These children are capable of speaking yet are unable to speak in certain social situations where there is a demand to speak, such as at school, at dance class, at soccer practice, or at the corner store. In other situations, these same children may speak openly with others and may even be considered a “chatterbox”. It is most commonly diagnosed at around five years of age or around the time the child enters school. Parents are often shocked to find that their child is not speaking at school because they are found to talk so often at home.
Phobias are characterized by persistent, excessive and unreasonable fears of an object or situation, which significantly interferes with life, and the child or teen is unable to control his/her fear. Some common phobias for children and teens include fear of dogs and insects, swimming, heights, loud noises, and injections (needles). Children with phobias will try their very best to avoid situations or things that they fear, or endure them with anxious feelings. They may cry, throw tantrums, become clingy, or complain of headaches and stomach aches.
Social Anxiety Disorder
These children are fearful or anxious about or avoidant of social interactions and situations that involve the possibility of being scrutinized. These could include social interactions such as meeting new people, a situation in which the child may be observed eating or drinking, and situations in which the child performs in front of others. The child is typically afraid of being embarrassed, rejected, or humiliated by others.
Panic disorder is characterized by the sudden onset of intense fear, called an anxiety or panic attack, followed by at least one month of worry about having additional attacks and/or fear of something bad happening as a result of the panic attack. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, racing heart, sweating, needing to escape, sense of danger or doom, and chest pain, among others.
Agoraphobia occurs when the youth has a significant fear of being in at least two locations where escape appears difficult or s/he might be unable to get help and therefore will avoid these situations as much as possible.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Children and teens with this disorder worry excessively and uncontrollably about daily life events and are often nicknamed “worry warts”. Their worries include fear of bad things happening in the future such as global warming or parents divorcing, being on time or making mistakes, a loved one becoming ill or dying, personal health, academic performance, world events, and natural disasters.