Most all kids experience anxiety and/or fear at some point in their lives, and these emotions can be triggered by many different things. The anxiety may be a result of a life change such as moving to a new town, or stressing over an important exam at school. The majority of the time, these feelings of stress and anxiety are dealt with as a part of everyday life and do not develop into panic disorders or panic attacks, but in some instances, anxiety disorders are a very real issue for some children.
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It is a natural instinct to want to protect children from anything that may cause them fear, stress, or harm, but children have to learn to deal with and overcome life’s hurdles in order to become responsible adults. Protecting and isolating them from real issues does not teach them how to effectively deal with them.
Children experience some of the same anxiety disorders as adults, and it may be difficult to determine when a child is dealing with a panic disorder. Candidates for a disorder diagnosis are those that may worry constantly about even the most insignificant events at home or school. These children usually are harder on themselves than others in their pursuit of perfection. They sometimes do the same task repeatedly in order to achieve their idea of a perfect result. They also have a need of reassurance and approval from others regarding their activities and accomplishments.
OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, is a common anxiety disorder that some children experience. People with OCD have trouble with obsessive and controlling thoughts they cannot get out of their head, no matter how hard they try. OCD sufferers often repeat the same behavior in an effort to relieve their anxiety. Typically, signs of OCD are not observed in children until they reach the age of ten, but there are some instances where these obsessive behaviors are viewed in toddlers two or three years of age. Some common OCD activities associated with this anxiety disorder include washing the hands repeatedly, stressing and agonizing for fear of making a mistake, or re-checking work excessively fearing perfection has not been achieved.
Another anxiety disorder sometimes displayed in children is panic disorder. A panic disorder is usually diagnosed in children who have suffered a minimum of two surprise panic attacks, which is then followed by a month or more of fear that another attack may occur. This disorder is more common at the adolescent age than in younger children.
Phobias are another way children display their anxiety disorders. Phobias are irrational fears toward certain situations, places, or objects, such as a fear of the dark or large crowds, for example. Most times childhood fears of animals, thunderstorms, or the dark disappear on their own. Any fear that persists for six months or longer and begins to interfere with normal daily activities is typically diagnosed as a phobia. Phobia symptoms may include chronic head or stomach aches, temper tantrums, clinginess, or immobility when confronted with the object of fear or dread.
Another type of anxiety disorder is post traumatic stress disorder. This is usually a result of a traumatic accident, the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or some form of physical assault. Sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder may be unable to sleep or eat; they may relive the traumatic event through nightmares, stressing over the possibility that the event may re-occur.
These anxiety disorders can exist in both children and adults, however the emotional and physical attributes of display usually vary. Most children have not developed the concept of what is considered irrational when it comes to their fears. They may not have developed the ability to put their emotions into words, either. Instead they may cry, take tantrums, or cling excessively to a parent or loved one.
Any child displaying signs of an anxiety disorder should be examined and diagnosed by a competent professional in order to bring the problem under control and determine the best course of treatment.