Do anxiety disorders affect children differently than adults?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

One in eight children suffers from an anxiety disorder. Feeling anxious is a normal part of growing up, though, so it can sometimes be difficult for adults and parents to tell when a child is suffering from an anxiety disorder. Depending on the type of disorder, children with anxiety disorders experience similar symptoms as adults, including irrational and intense fears, shyness, and avoidance of places and experiences. Being selectively mute and separation anxiety disorder are two anxiety disorders unique to younger children (ages four to nine). Anxiety disorders can prevent children form forming friendships and succeeding in school. With effective treatment, children who suffer from anxiety disorders can learn to manage their symptoms and live a full childhood.

Children with anxiety disorders will have different symptoms than adults with anxiety disorders. It is a common misconception that children with an anxiety disorder look like an adult with an anxiety disorder.

An adult with anxiety will say they're worried, they're anxious, they're nervous. They'll do things to avoid anxious situations. They'll watch Netflix too late, they'll eat too much ice cream, they'll avoid friends, they'll drink too much alcohol.

Kids with an anxiety disorder will have a stomach ache, or they'll have a headache at a time when they're anxious, like every day before school, or every Sunday before church. Parents will accuse them of faking it. It's not fake, it's real pain caused by anxiety, not by blood vessels or inflammation or anything else.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.