Everyone experiences anxiety—some more than others.
Those diagnosed with an anxiety disorder tend to be overly fearful of particular situations. Symptoms often develop in childhood and, without treatment, usually persist into adulthood.
The different types of anxiety disorders listed below are based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. A similar list appears in the manual of the RCMAS™-2, a psychological assessment clinicians use to measure the nature and level of anxiety in students.
- Separation anxiety—may be caused by the child’s first day at school, separation from parents, adolescents going away to college, and so on
- Selective mutism—consistent failure to speak in social situations with an expectation for speaking, even though the child speaks in other situations
- Specific phobia—anxiety is persistent and out of proportion to actual risk posed, including animal, natural environment, blood-injection-injury, medical care, and other situations, such as fear of heights, enclosed spaces, snakes, flying, and so forth
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)—general anxiety toward crowds, people, parties, or meeting and talking to people
- Panic disorder—usually a feeling of terror that strikes suddenly and may result in excessive sweating, heart palpitations, or near paralysis of motion
- Agoraphobia—anxiety of being in a place or situation from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing
- Generalized anxiety disorder—general worry for at least 6 months duration with at least three of several specified indications of anxiety
- Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder—due to intoxication, withdrawal, or a medication treatment
- Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition—physiological effect of another medical condition
- Other specified and unspecified anxiety disorder—distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning that does not meet the full criteria for any of the disorders in the anxiety disorders diagnostic class
No matter the subcategory, stressed children can benefit from an intervention program that addresses the sources of anxiety in context; such an intervention often recommends a combination of psychotherapy and psychopharmacological treatment as the best course of action.
Although they are in their own diagnostic categories, posttraumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are often associated with anxiety, either as causes or symptoms.
Importance of parental buy-in
Recognizing an anxiety-producing home environment is often crucial to treating a child with an anxiety disorder. That means gaining the cooperation of parents, which isn’t always easy or possible, especially when the parents themselves are experiencing high anxiety levels.
The parents may not be aware of their child’s condition or their own contributions to the anxiety, so an effort should be made to seek their understanding and cooperation. Besides the home, examining the community and school environment is also necessary, according to the RCMAS-2 manual.