Children who suffer from chronic excessive worry that often seems unfounded are often diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Generalized anxiety disorder in children causes them to worry about the future, past behavior, being accepted socially, school performance and other personal stressors.
While all children experience some anxiety which is a normal part of growing up when the worries and the fears the child faces interferes with normal childhood activities it’s likely that GAD may be the culprit. It is also interesting to note that children who have parents with an anxiety disorder are more likely to develop GAD.
While there is no specific way to predict GAD or even a locked down cause of GAD all anxiety disorders are believed to be a combination of biological, family and environmental factors. Anxiety and fear are also believed to be learned actions in children. For example a child who is raised by a parent who has a fear of water, will grow up with the constant worry of the parent influencing their behavior. Extreme caution, fear of the water, reluctance to go swimming and other behaviors indicative of GAD are trained into the child by the parent with an anxiety disorder.
While most children are considered to be carefree and happy-go-lucky the symptoms of GAD can change many of the interactions and behaviors of a typical child. These symptoms include:
Frequent headaches and stomach aches
Lack of concentration or one track mind
Constant fears about safety
Being easily startled
Muscle aches and tension
Worrying incessantly about friends and family
Worrying about things before they happen- conjecture, paranoia
We all know how physically trying it can be to deal with fears and anxiety, but as adults we can reason through the feelings. A child simply lives with constant worry and stress and can’t clearly express what they feel in a way that makes sense. So they often just continue to worry and be frightened until someone notices.
Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder in children is determined by the child’s age, medical history and general health, the extent of the symptoms, expectations of treatment, and the parent’s opinion and preference in the course of treatment.
Common treatment programs include cognitive behavioral therapy, learning to manage anxiety, learning what the triggers are and sometimes antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. Counseling and therapy involving the child and the family as well as cooperation of the child’s school and activities directors play a large part in working through and dealing with generalize anxiety disorder in children.