Anxiety Disorders

             This category and various sub-categories cover a wide range of symptoms typified by sleep problems and worries or fears.  A child may have an “anxiety problem” which is basically defined as less severe than a “generalized anxiety disorder” or  a “panic disorder.”  Anxiety can be manifested about nearly anything:  fear of animals, natural disasters, medical care, school performance, acceptance by classmates, being away from home or even the future in general.  When these fears become so excessive that they interfere with social or school functioning, they may well be classified as the more serious generalized anxiety disorder.

            Of course, as with many mental health symptoms, the signs of anxiety disorder are shared among a wide population of healthy people.  Some adults and children are afraid of escalators.  A huge number of people are afraidTeen-age girl with long blonde hair and hands to face of flying.  After 9/11, perhaps many more people are afraid to be in tall buildings.  An important element in developing anxiety disorders may be the parental response.  If the parent takes every fear expressed by the child as cause for concern, the fear is authenticated as real.  Comforting the child about every fear may plant the seeds of another problem – separation anxiety.  If even slight fears trigger parental comfort, then the child may not want to be away from the parent.  Of course, the fear is real to the child, and thus caring parents will need to seek a balance between caring and overreacting.  No one said being a parent is easy!

            For the record, an anxiety problem becomes an anxiety disorder if the excessive anxiety occurs more days than not for at least six months and interfere with the child’s participation in school and social life.  These symptoms also include:

        -- restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge

        --being easily fatigued

        --difficulty concentrating or mind going blank

        --irritability

        --muscle tension

        --sleep disturbance (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or restless sleep)

          Variants of anxiety disorder include panic disorder, with and without agoraphobia (which basically means a fear of being in open or public places), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder (developmentally inappropriate anxiety concerning separation from a parent or other individual).     

                        [Source note:  These are summaries prepared by the Webmaster from various materials, the most important of which are the DSM IV (4th ed.), published by the American Psychiatric Association, and Bright Futures in Mental Health, a joint publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Maternal and Child Health Bureau and the National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health at Georgetown University.  Editorial comment is by the Webmaster.]

DISCLAIMER:  Unless otherwise indicated, all commentary and information on this web site is provided by persons who have no formal training in medicine or mental health.  You should weigh the information and comment on this site in consultation with a mental health professional.