Watching a child struggle with anxiety can be very difficult for parents. Anxiety may begin to mask their perception and
convince them that their child is already psychologically or emotionally impaired. Many parents find it helpful to keep
track of the child’s accomplishments and abilities so that they don’t begin thinking of their child as overly anxious and
fearful. Instead they can recognize what abilities their child has that might be useful in dealing with anxiety. A little
anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can even be used to help motivate a person. Being aware of one’s anxiety can
also help a person better respond to danger.
Anxiety, the body’s reaction to a perceived, anticipated or imagined danger or threatening situation, is a common and normal
occurrence among children. All children experience anxiety. Anxiety in children is expected and normal at specific times in
development. For example, from around 8 months through the preschool years, healthy youngsters may show intense distress
(anxiety) at times of separation from their parents or other persons with whom they are close. Anxious children are often
overly tense or uptight. Some may seek a lot of reassurance, and their worries may interfere with activities.
There are different types of child anxiety. One such anxiety disorder very common among them is Generalized Anxiety Disorder
(GAD). GAD is defined as chronic, excessive worry and fear that seems to have no real cause. Children with GAD often worry a
lot about things such as future events, past behaviors, social acceptance, family matters, relationship, their personal
abilities, and/or school performance. Although younger children can show signs of excessive worry, children usually develop
GAD at about 12 years old. Studies also revealed that many children with GAD also have other anxiety problems. The most
common of which are social anxiety, depression, separation anxiety, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Worrying too much about things before they actually happen or being too concerned about friends, school or activities are the
most common symptoms of GAD. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. It may also include:
constant thoughts and fears about safety of self and/or safety of parents
refusing to go to school
frequent stomach aches, headaches, or other physical complaints
muscle aches or tension
excessive worry about sleeping away from home
clingy behavior with family members
feeling as though there is a lump in the throat
lack of concentration
being easily startled
inability to relax
Several anxiety medications are available for the effective treatment of GAD. A few of these medications include Zoloft,
Paxil, Xanax, and Prozac. All of these medications are known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These
medications are all fairly new anti-depressants and have very little side effects. When a child takes any of these drugs, he
or she may experience overly nervous at first. However, after several weeks the feeling typically fades away. Some side
consequences of anti-depressants that children may experience are: sleepiness, tiredness, and confusion.
These medications should only be taken after consultation with the child’s physician. A physician’s decision on what
medications to be taken by a child depends on the child’s physical structure, blood chemistry, as well as how severe the
child’s anxiety is.
Parents should not discount a child’s fears. Aside from the symptoms mentioned above, anxious children may also be quiet,
compliant and eager to please, thus their difficulties may be missed. Parents should always be alert to the signs of severe
anxiety so they can intervene early to prevent future complications.