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GAD in Children: Symptoms, Treatment & Natural Remedies

Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

It is “normal” for children to experience fear, worry and anxiety from time-to-time, especially if they are “dealing with a lot” (i.e. divorce, remarriage, health condition, new school or location, a new sibling, a learning disability, etc.). In fact, stress can trigger or worsen anxiety symptoms. Many times the anxiety subsides once time has elapsed and nothing “horrible” has occurred, but in some cases, the anxiety persists and never “lets up.”

When the anxiety interferes with a child’s ability to be a “normal” child and perform day-to-day activities, then it is time to seek professional help. No child deserves to be in constant emotional agony.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Symptoms & Treatment of GAD in Children & Kids

Although Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) typically occurs during adolescence (i.e. childhood, teenage years and young adulthood), it can also arise later in life. 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.

It is important to understand that generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic condition that requires patience, understanding and unconditional support. Moreover, there is a possibility that a child may be diagnosed with more than just generalized anxiety disorder. In fact, many times anxiety disorders accompany mood disorders (i.e. depression).

Thankfully, this condition can be effectively managed with psychotherapy (counseling), lifestyle changes/natural remedies (i.e. exercises, relaxation techniques, adequate sleep, a healthy diet, herbal supplements and vitamins) and in severe cases psychiatric medications (i.e. anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants).

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

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.

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 then 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 behavioral 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.

It is important to note that children who exhibit signs of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) should be examined by a trained mental health professional who can teach them how to manage and/or improve their condition.

Natural Remedies for GAD in children

Although the most common treatments for GAD in children involve psychotherapy (i.e. individual, family or group counseling) or medication, lifestyle changes (i.e. natural remedies) can make a difference in these children’s quality of life and improve their condition.


Listed below are some natural remedies for generalized anxiety disorder in children:

It is important that you discuss natural remedies with your child’s psychologist or psychiatrist before using them to treat anxiety.

Get Moving! 

It is important that children get some form of exercise each and every day. It does not matter if they run around the house a few times, play ball with a friend, join an after-school sports team or swim in the community pool, as long as they do something to “get moving.”

Exercise is especially important for children with GAD because it is a proven stress-reliever. It also improves their mood, lowers their risk of depression and increases their physical endurance and stamina. One of the best benefits associated with exercise is that it boosts children’s oxygen intake so they feel calmer, “bouncier” and more energized throughout the day.

If possible, establish a set exercise routine for these children. In other words, make it a rule that they have to do 20 sit-ups, 10 push-ups and 10 minutes of jumping rope before watching their favorite television shows. If they are not used to regular exercise – start out slow and work up to longer workout periods or more advanced exercises. Make exercising more fun for the children by joining in! It will not only strengthen your bond, it will also help you stay in shape.

Relax

Relaxation training is another natural remedy for children with GAD. This type of training involves: meditation, yoga, visualization, journaling and deep breathing. These techniques can lower the children’s anxiety and “ward off” a panic attack. In other words, the training calms their minds and bodies so they can control their emotions and reactions.


Get Enough ZZZs

It is important that children with GAD sleep soundly each night. Their sleep needs to be a priority. Establish a set bedtime for these children and do not waver from it. A lack of sleep can trigger or worsen anxiety symptoms so it is imperative that they get enough ZZZs each night.

Eat Healthy Foods

One of the most effective natural remedies for generalized anxiety disorder in children is a healthy diet. It is important that these children eat healthy foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.). These foods supply them with the nutrients needed to help them grow healthy and strong. Healthy foods also help regulate their central nervous system functions, mood and in some cases behaviors. Fatty, salty, sugary and processed foods can trigger or exacerbate anxiety symptoms in children.

Foods rich in B vitamins (i.e. kale, spinach, arugula, collard greens, Swiss chard, cantaloupe, bananas, peaches, kiwi, blackberries, oranges, etc.) and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. salmon, tuna, flax-seed oil, nuts, broccoli, etc.) can regulate moods and prevent an anxiety attack.

It is important that caffeine (i.e. chocolate, teas and sodas) be eliminated from their diets because it can worsen anxiety symptoms in children.

Boost Vitamin Intake

Vitamins are also natural remedies for generalized anxiety disorder in children. Start boosting their vitamin intake by adding extra B vitamins (i.e. kale, spinach, bananas and blackberries) to their diet. These vitamins are water-soluble, which means there is little chance of an overdose.

Once you have had a chance to monitor how the extra vitamins affect their condition, increase the amount of vitamin C and essential fatty acids. Purchase flax seeds from the health department of your local grocery store and sprinkle a couple of teaspoons onto their cereal or add it to meals while cooking. 

Fix these children fatty fish (i.e. Tuna, salmon, king mackerel, etc.) at least three times a week, if possible. Fatty fish contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help alleviate anxiety and depression in children.


Supplement with Peaceful Herbs

Certain peaceful herbs are natural remedies for generalized anxiety disorder in children. One such herbal supplement is the passion flower. This herb is known for its ability to reduce tension, anxiety, stress, nervousness, apprehension, insomnia and hyperactivity in children. Passion flower is especially beneficial for children with GAD because it has calming and soothing properties that can reduce high blood pressure.

Another natural remedy that is good for anxiety disorders in children is lavender. This herb helps regulate their central nervous system functions, regulates their moods and promotes a sense of calmness and tranquility, which are beneficial for children with an anxiety disorder.

Lemon balm is also a good anxiety-reliever for children. This peaceful herb lowers their blood pressure, helps regulate their nervous system functions, reduces stress, improves digestion and helps them relax. 

Cloves, parsley, rosemary and cardamom are natural herbal remedies that reduce stress and tension, lower risks of developing depression, boosts spirits, calms anxious minds, reduces lethargy, improves circulation and supports nervous system functions. 

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