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Anxiety Problems & Disorders

The symptoms of fear, worry, and anxiety are commonly experienced by children and adolescents who suffer from anxiety problems and disorders. Please refer to the sections below (as well as to the right menu box) for more information about these difficulties and to learn about the best-supported treatment options.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a negative emotion that involves feeling nervous, scared, afraid, or worried. Usually we feel anxious when we think something bad is about to happen.

When Does Anxiety Become a Problem?

Although everyone experiences anxiety, some people begin to feel anxious and/or worried so much that it makes them feel really uncomfortable and starts to disrupt their lives. Clinically significant anxiety (i.e., anxiety needing clinical attention) among children and adolescents can be described as an extreme response to a situation or event that a young person perceives as threatening and is out of proportion to the actual danger. This anxious response frequently includes thoughts of impending harm or danger, heightened arousal such as increased heart rate and rapid breathing, and often the avoidance of situations or events that cause discomfort. The experience of a child or adolescent suffering from clinically significant anxiety can lead to considerable distress and interference with his/her daily activities at school, at home, or with his/her peers. While deciding whether or not your child needs help with anxiety, it is important to interpret your child's behavior in light of his/her developmental level. In other words, is your child's anxiety response more severe, more intense, or longer lasting than would be age-appropriate?

As can be seen below, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) currently has the most research evidence for the treatment of general symptoms of anxiety in young people. This treatment can be administered in a variety of different formats, each of which has varying levels of research support.

 

Anxiety - General symptoms

Works Well
What does this mean?
None
Works
What does this mean?
  • Individual CBT
  • Group CBT (without parents)
  • Group CBT with parents
  • Social skills training
  • Exposure treatment
Might Work
What does this mean?
  • Individual CBT with parents
  • Group CBT with parental anxiety management for anxious parents
  • Family CBT
  • Parent group CBT
  • Group CBT with parents plus internet
Unknown/Untested
N/A

Source: Silverman, W. K., Pina, A. A., & Viswesvaran, Chockalingam (2008). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for phobic and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: A review and meta-analyses. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 105-130.

 
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