It is normal for a child or teenager to feel nervous about a single event, such as an important test. It is not normal, however, for a child or teen to feel anxious much of the time, or to be unable to cope with new situations because of anxiety. An Anxiety Disorder is present if the level of anxiety is high enough to interfere with the child or teen’s everyday activities.
There are several types of Anxiety Disorders, and it is possible for a child or adolescent to have more than one type of disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a condition in which the child is unable to control her multiple worries, and typically is tense and edgy. A child with Separation Anxiety Disorder is fearful of being away from parents and familiar adults, and often worried about something bad happening to themselves or the people they love. A child with a Social Phobia worries excessively about social situations such as speaking in front of a group of people, or meeting unfamiliar people, and usually tries to avoid these fear-inducing circumstances.
Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) include frequent intrusive thoughts, and a compelling need to perform certain routines or rituals. The compulsive behaviours can be time-consuming and often interfere with normal everyday activities. A child with Panic Disorder is prone to panic attacks when he is highly anxious, and at these times might have symptoms of breathing problems, dizziness, and a pounding heart. Selective Mutism is fairly rare and characterized by the child refusing to speak in the situations in which she feels anxious. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also is not often seen in children, but occurs after one or more episodes of severe emotional distress and includes symptoms such as tension, sleep problems, and being unnecessarily watchful in daily surroundings.