This article was originally published March 1, 2015.
The word “anxiety” is a blanket term that covers the following anxiety disorders and phobias that affect children:
Generalized anxiety disorder: A child can feel uneasy at all times or feel anxiety over many different things, like friends, school and health. Sometimes they can focus on one thing, like academic success. No amount of reassurance works to end the concerns. They worry about day-to-day life, have difficulty getting things done or find it hard to relax or take pleasure in things. They can be restless, feel irritable or have difficulty concentrating and falling asleep.
Separation anxiety disorder: Excessive worry of being away from home or separated from parents that is inappropriate for the child’s age. These kids not only won’t stay over somewhere without their parents, they want someone with them until they fall asleep, and can’t even handle afternoons with a babysitter, friend or family member without great distress.
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia: A strong fear of social situations, being the focus of attention and/or being around unfamiliar people. Kids with this are afraid to talk in class, meet new people or even walk through a crowded room. It is far beyond just being shy.
Specific phobias: These are intense and illogical fears of an object or situation — for instance, animals, storms, vomiting, water or the doctor or dentist.
Panic disorder: This typically happens in the teen years and is diagnosed if your child has at least two attacks followed by at least one month of concern of having another one. The attacks can cause heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Children have a persistent and intrusive need to repeat behaviors like hand washing, trying to keep things in order, repeating actions over and over to calm negative thoughts.
Disruptive behavior disorders: Often just thought of as “bad kids” because their anxiety manifests in disruptive behavior.
Post-traumatic stress disorder: Occurs after children experience or witness a traumatic event. They have intense fear and anxiety, can be irritable and may try to avoid people and places that remind them of the event.
Source: “You and Your Anxious Child” by Anne Marie Albano, Ph.D., director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, and “Growing Up Brave: Expert Strategies for Helping Your Child Overcome Fear, Stress, and Anxiety” by Donna Pincus, director of the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program at Boston University.