2013-05-31 09:29:59 by Public Relations staff, as posted on the inside.akronchildrens.org blog.
While it’s normal for a child to be anxious about giving a presentation in front of the class or for a baby to have separation anxiety when left with a sitter, sometimes children experience anxiety that interferes with their daily lives.
“Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders we see in children and teens,” said Dr. Sumru Bilge-Johnson, a pediatric psychiatrist and trauma therapist at Akron Children’s Hospital. “As children grow and develop, they experience different phases of fear, such as separation anxiety or being afraid of the dark that are part of normal childhood development.”
These fears or anxieties can become a problem if they persist.
“All anxiety disorders are treatable and we can help children overcome these fears by looking at what else is going on and how to support their normal mental health development,” Dr. Bilge-Johnson said.
Types of anxiety disorders
Successfully treating anxiety disorders starts with early identification. The types of anxiety disorders that typically affect children and teens include:
Treatment for anxiety disorders
Dr. Sumru Bilge-Johnson
The stress and low self-esteem associated with anxiety disorders can lead to depression, so treatment is important.
“Anxiety disorders that prevent a child from participating in normal activities can be like living in a cage. The goal with treatment is to help the child be free and enjoy life,” Dr. Bilge-Johnson said.
Anxiety disorders are often successfully treated with cognitive behavioral therapy that helps the child recognize how irrational his thoughts or fears may be, or gradually expose him to the source of his fear. Relaxation techniques may help the child learn to cope in anxiety-producing situations.
In severe cases, such as OCD or certain phobias, the child may need a combination of therapy and medication to overcome the disorder.
When to seek help
Some degree of anxiety is healthy and normal for children and adults alike. Anxiety can help motivate us to prepare for an exam or keep us on guard in potentially dangerous situations.
It becomes a problem when the fears are unrealistic or irrational and cause a high level of distress that interferes with daily life. When this happens, it’s time to seek professional help.
Talk to your pediatrician or family doctor for a referral to a mental health professional who specializes in treating children.
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