What is Anxiety?

In simple terms, anxiety results when a person is in a situation in which an unwanted outcome is anticipated. We call such situations trigger situations.

Examples of anxiety in trigger situations

  1. A child fears going to the park because they believe dogs will be present and they could be bitten, jumped on, or licked.
  2. A child leaves home for school and fears that their parent won’t pick them up or something bad will happen to the parent.
  3. A child fears being judged negatively by others during play or other activities and so refuses to raise their hand in class or interact with other children.
  4. A child has excessive fears in school or other settings about being late, getting into trouble, getting a poor grade, or not following instructions correctly.
  5. A child fears trying a new food due to fears they won’t like it or will find the texture or taste unappealing.
  6. A child becomes fearful of vomiting during flu season or someone has vomited.

What are anxiety disorders?:

Everyone has some anxiety and discomfort about being in various situations.  Anxiety becomes a disorder when:

  • it creates significant Distress
  • it Disrupts the child’s ability to engage in the social, academic, family, and other activities that are typical for the age
  • its reactions are Disproportionate to the situation
  • its Duration is 6 months or more *
*All anxiety and related disorders naturally wax and wane over days, weeks, months, or years. Therefore, we focus on the first 3 Ds.

Children who suffer from anxiety disorders experience much more distress for longer durations than do those without anxiety problems.

Types of anxiety disorders

There are many types of anxiety and related disorders a child can suffer from. The most common are:

  • separation anxiety disorder
  • selective mutism
  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • simple phobias
  • social anxiety disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • panic disorder; agoraphobia
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • body-focused repetitive behavior disorders (skin picking, hair pulling, nail biting)
  • body dysmorphic disorder

We see almost all the anxiety disorders in children as young as 3-5 years of age.

Humans of every socio-economic status and ethnic background worldwide have these disorders at rates similar to those occurring in the USA.