Child/Adolescent Anxiety and OCD

Have an anxious, fearful and obsessive child or teen? Frustrated that as a parent you haven’t been able to find a solution to your child’s anxieties/fears and eliminate the emotional pain your family is struggling to control? What parents need to know is that Anxiety Disorders don’t respond to practical solutions because they are not your typical anxiety that all kids experience at one time or another in their everyday lives.

Anxiety disorders are one of the primary mental health problems affecting children and adolescents today. Given the wide range of stressors associated with growing up, it is important that your child/teen has the appropriate skills for coping with anxiety and other difficult emotions. I have successfully treated several presentations of childhood anxiety utilizing cognitive behavioral treatment strategies (CBT), exposure/response prevention (E/RP), and mindfulness meditation.

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

If your child has generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, he or she will worry excessively about a variety of things such as grades, family issues, relationships with peers, and performance in sports.  Children with GAD tend to be very hard on themselves and strive for perfection. They may also seek constant approval or reassurance from others. Learn more about GAD at adaa.org.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is characterized by unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and feeling compelled to repeatedly perform rituals and routines (compulsions) to try and ease anxiety. Learn more about OCD.

Most children with OCD are diagnosed around age 10, although the disorder can strike children as young as two or three. Boys are more likely to demonstrate OCD symptoms before puberty, while girls tend to express OCD symptoms in early adolescence.  Learn more about Pediatric OCD at – Pedatric Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is diagnosed if your child suffers at least two unexpected panic or anxiety attacks—which means they come on suddenly and for no reason—followed by at least one month of concern over having another attack, losing control, or “going crazy.” Learn more about panic disorder and panic attacks at adaa.org.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)iStock_000026753262Large

Children with posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, may have intense fear and anxiety, become emotionally numb or easily irritable, or avoid places, people, or activities after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or life-threatening event. Learn more about PTSD.

Not every child who experiences or hears about a traumatic event will develop PTSD. It is normal to be fearful, sad, or apprehensive after such events, and many children will recover from these feelings in a short time.

Children most at risk for PTSD are those who directly witnessed a traumatic event, who suffered directly (such as injury or the death of a parent), had mental health problems before the event, and who lack a strong support network. Violence at home also increases a child’s risk of developing PTSD after experiencing/witnessing a violent episode. Learn more about childhood PTSD at adaa.org.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Many children experience separation anxiety between 18 months and three years old, when it is normal to feel some anxiety when a parent leaves the room or goes out of sight. Children with mild separation anxiety can typically be distracted from these feelings and will eventually grow out of the need for visual reassurance.  It’s also common for your child to cry when first being left at daycare or pre-school, and crying usually subsides after becoming engaged in the new environment.

If your child is slightly older and unable to leave you or another family member, or takes longer to calm down after you leave than other children, then the problem could be separation anxiety disorder, which affects four percent of children. This disorder is most common in kids ages seven to nine.

When separation anxiety disorder occurs, a child experiences excessive anxiety away from home or when separated from parents or caregivers. Extreme homesickness and feelings of misery at not being with loved ones are common.

Other symptoms include refusing to go to school, camp, or a sleepover, and demanding that someone stay with them at bedtime. Children with separation anxiety commonly worry about bad things happening to their parents or caregivers or may have a vague sense of something terrible occurring while they are apart. Learn more about separation anxiety disorder at adaa.org.

Specific Phobias

A specific phobia is the intense, irrational fear of a specific object, such as a dog, or a situation, such as flying. Common childhood phobias include animals, insects, storms, heights, water, blood, the dark, and medical procedures.

Children will avoid situations or things that they fear, or endure them with anxious feelings, which can manifest as crying, tantrums, clinging, avoidance, headaches, and stomachaches. Unlike adults, they do not usually recognize that their fear is irrational. Learn more about phobias. Learn more at adaa.org.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is characterized by an intense fear of social and performance situations and activities such as being called on in class or starting a conversation with a peer. Learn more about social anxiety disorder.
This can significantly impair your child’s school performance and attendance, as well as his or her ability to socialize with peers and develop and maintain relationships. Learn more about social anxiety disorder at adaa.org.

High School Doubts and Dilemmas

Growing up is a capital “C” Challenge!  Parents and others may tell you “these are the best years of your life,” yet it may seem as if they have forgotten their own personal and academic struggles when they were teens — the pressures, the uncertainty, the confusion! Parents may seem to be concerned with nothing but your grades or your test scores and where you will go to college.  Mom and Dad’s supportive comments may have your best interest in mind, however, they may be oblivious to the competing demands on your time with only 24 hours in a day to accomplish expectations.

There is no question that you are living in one of the most complex and demanding times we have ever known.   Furthermore, applying to college is the most significant and stress-provoking time in many teen’s lives. It can aggravate latent depression, anxiety as well as lower self-esteem or cause a loss of belief in one’s abilities.  However, these times can also provide opportunities to hone your values and priorities.  Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral techniques and Motivational Therapy, I can help you navigate this transitional stage in life; to manage stress and develop coping skills that support self-confidence and increase positive self-esteem.  These skills can be a roadmap to coping with later choice points in life, whether applying for a job, or dealing with adversity that inevitably comes in the adult world.