Anxiety is the most common emotional condition found in children and adolescents. An anxious child is to be expected at certain times of development, such as the first day of school, meeting new friends, moving, or sleeping in the dark, but prolonged worries and fears may need to be addressed by a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Dr. Katie Skelton specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of numerous anxiety disorders affecting children and teenagers living in the greater New Braunfels, San Marcos and Seguin, Texas communities. She strives to treat young patients as quickly as possible so they can return to school and home activities with limited worries and stress.
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
All children and adolescents experience anxiety during certain milestones in their lives, such as starting a new school, meeting new people or leaving their parents or caregivers for the first time. An anxious child often appears uptight and tense, seeks reassurance more than normal and worries for an extended period of time during developmental stages.
Developmentally appropriate fears may become an anxiety disorder if they impair a child’s day-to-day functions or do not subside with time. For example, young toddlers may fear strangers, imaginary creatures and the darkness, but many toddlers outgrow these fears before they are school-aged children and adolescents.
Children and adolescents suffering from an anxiety disorder commonly voice a specific fear or worry, and many children do not realize it is an excessive or unreasonable fear. Common anxiety disorders found in kids and teens include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Separation anxiety
- Social phobia
- Specific phobia
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
There is no single cause of an anxiety disorder. A disorder is often the result of an interaction between environmental risk factors and biological factors, as well as genetics. For example, a shy or fearful child combined with an aggressive parenting style may cause anxiety in certain children.
What are the Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder?
Common symptoms of an anxiety disorder in children and adolescents include:
- Constant worries and fears
- Repetitive unwanted thoughts or actions
- Low self esteem
- Fear of making mistakes
- Extreme fear of a specific thing or situation
- Trouble sleeping or nightmares
- Physical complaints such as upset stomach
How is an Anxious Child Diagnosed?
Anxiety is diagnosed during a thorough assessment with Dr. Skelton. A child or teenager will be asked specific questions to evaluate their feelings, fears, worries, etc. Dr. Skelton may also request a patient to fill out a questionnaire in order to help with the diagnosis.
How is an Anxiety Disorder Treated?
An anxiety disorder is not treated with one general treatment plan. Patients require a customized approach that works best for each child and family. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, is the first treatment step for an anxious child in the majority of cases. If psychotherapy does not fully alleviate anxiety, adding medication may be necessary. Dr. Skelton will explain the risks and benefits of medication on an individual patient basis.
For additional information on an anxiety disorder, or to determine the proper treatment plan for your anxious child, please contact the New Braunfels, San Marcos and Seguin, Texas practice of Dr. Katie Skelton.