Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children?

Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental disorder that manifests itself as general persistent anxiety independent of any particular situations or objects.

About 1-2% of young people are affected. The frequency in children after puberty is much higher than in younger children. Among those affected, the number of female people is slightly higher than the number of boys and boys.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

With generalized anxiety disorder, children manifest pronounced and persistent anxiety. It does not depend on objects and situations. Anxiety may concern the future, past situations and behavior, one’s own appearance and wealth. Along with anxiety, as a rule, tension, embarrassment, inability to feel relaxation, the need for frequent support and approval, somatic symptoms – for example, abdominal pains or headaches – come.

To diagnose generalized anxiety disorder in children, the symptoms should cause clinically pronounced suffering or social impairment. Vegetative symptoms in children are less pronounced than in adults. Nevertheless, they can be grouped by functional systems in this way:

  1. Respiratory: difficulty in breathing, chest tightening, etc.
  2. Gastrointestinal: excessive gas formation, discomfort in the epigastric region, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth.
  3. Urogenital: frequent urination, etc.
  4. Cardiovascular: cervical pulsation, palpitations, discomfort in the heart.
  5. Nervous system: dizziness, a sense of staggering, etc.

A generalized disorder can last for many years, continuing after the child is growing up. Sometimes it is complicated by depression.

Diagnosing Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

Doctors should conduct a physical examination of the child, find out the history and symptoms. Sometimes research is needed to look for other diseases that could lead to generalized anxiety disorder. This may be, for example, a thyroid disease in a child.

Parents should inform the doctor about the medications the child is taking. This is because some medications cause side effects that resemble the symptoms of anxiety disorder. The doctor is also informed whether the child is addicted to alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.

An accurate diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder is made if:

  • symptoms last from 6 months (or more);
  • symptoms lead to significant discomfort for the child, preventing him from living a full life;
  • the symptoms are persistent and uncontrolled.

Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

It is important to maximize the involvement of the child’s parents, carers and teachers in therapy so that there is a minimum of stress in his life. Sometimes a child / adolescent, as well as his family, is taught cognitive-behavioral strategies for managing remaining anxieties.

The benefits of drug treatment have not been precisely determined. Although practical experience and some research data suggest that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can minimize symptoms while they are being taken. To date, the most promising approach in the long term is a combination of cognitive-behavioral approaches with stress reduction.