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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in Children

Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

Just like adults, children can experience the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. GAD in children can actually appear as young as six years old, and normally is found in children that are between the ages of six and eleven.

Normally, GAD in children is characterized by overly worrying about certain situations, family member's health problems, natural disasters that can hit the area, school or extra-curricular activity performances, and so on. While these are all normal things that a child can worry about, GAD in children is the excessive worry that can consume the child's thoughts and cause them physical problems on top of the fear. It completely interferes with the child's normal activities both at home and away from home.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

Some of the main symptoms of GAD in children include:
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty falling, or staying, asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Inability to relax
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Being overly hypercritical of themselves and overly worrying about how people see them
  • Requiring constant approval or reassurance
There are some more severe symptoms of GAD in children that if left untreated for too long, can turn into a larger problem, such as a panic disorder. Panic disorders involve some of the same symptoms that adults experience and they also follow the same basic diagnostic criteria. Basically, a panic disorder is diagnosed when a child suffers from at least two different panic attacks that are unexpected and unexplained, and followed by at least a month of the child having a serious concern about having another attack, “going crazy”, or losing control of themselves. While the most common age for people to be diagnosed with a panic disorder is in their early twenties, it can be diagnosed much earlier, such as in adolescence or even in childhood.

Panic disorders usually occur when GAD in children is left unattended and gets worse quickly. The child them becomes apprehensive when they have to deal with situations or places where they have previously had a panic attack, a fearful episode, or other problem that they relate to fear, worry, or confrontation. If this is left untreated, a child can also develop agoraphobia just like an adult can that is suffering from the same panic disorder or GAD. The symptoms of a panic disorder or agoraphobia can include: dizziness, nausea, headaches, stomach upset, fainting, or heart palpitations.


Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder Children

The good thing is that there are many different treatment options for both GAD in children as well as panic disorders. Some of the treatment options include: medications, family education, group or individual therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, or exposure response prevention. It is easily treatable, especially when the first warning signs appear in a child. While GAD in children can easily develop into something much worse if left untreated, the signs should be clear enough for a parent to recognize and get help for their child before it can evolve into anything worse.


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