About Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders in Children, Adolescents and Emerging Adults

  •  Anxiety disorders in children, adolescents, and emerging adults have increased exponentially in the past ten to fifteen years.
  • In 2016 62 percent of students reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety”, an increase of 50 percent from 2011 (American College Health Association Statistics).
  • It is estimated that there has been a 700 percent increase in the anxiety disorders in the past 40 years with a super-charged increase in the past 15 years.
  • This upsurge of severe anxiety in children, adolescents, and emerging adults appears to be related to an intense pressure to excel in academics, sports, social relationships, appearance and fashion and a myriad of other after-school activities.
  • It is also noteworthy that the dramatic increase in anxiety coincides with the development of the smart phone in 2007.
  • Severe anxiety in children and adolescents can result in school avoidance and school refusal.
  • Once school refusal sets in it can rapidly become prolonged. The deeper the fear and anxiety becomes the harder it is to return to daily school attendance.
  • The ubiquitous and expanding use of the smart phone since 2012 has invaded all aspects of the lives of children and adolescents. As a result young people are spending more time alone and connecting with friends virtually instead of in the real physical world.
  • Academic use of the smart phone can inhibit the development of maturity and the constant digital stimulation can impair the ability for sustained concentration.
  • Social networking on the smart phone frequently results in continuous comparing of oneself to others, leading to feelings of family and friends seeing them as disappointments or failures.
  • Statistics indicate that since 2007 adolescent suicides have steadily increased. It is estimated that between 2008 and 2015 the number of children and adolescents with serious suicidal thoughts has doubled.

Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Children, Adolescents, and Emerging Adults

  • Generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety with panic attacks, and fear and anxiety resulting from traumatic stress have a good response to specialized treatment.
  • The earlier the treatment begins the more effective it is in helping the child or adolescent to overcome the avoidance behaviors that may become ingrained in the activities of daily life.
  • Successful treatment involves educating children and adolescents in a full understanding of anxiety and empowering them in learning how to manage it themselves. They develop a toolbox of skills that they can take with them in their life journeys into college and beyond.
  • A comprehensive treatment approach involves education, anxiety management skill building, increasing self awareness and understanding, identifying specific emotions, and achieving the ability and confidence to cope with them.
  • Mindfullness, meditation experiences, and instructing children and adolescents in utilizing self-hypnosis to monitor and reduce anxiety, calm the physical body and manage negative thoughts and internal negative self-talk are effective additional aspects of treatment.
  • As children and adolescents are imbedded in the family system it is constructive to involve parents in certain aspects of the treatment experience.
  • It is important for parents to develop a deeper understanding of their child’s inner struggle and emotional pain. Therapeutic parent consults are an essential part of the treatment plan. Through these collaborative efforts parents become resourceful and confident in supporting their child’s mastery over her or his anxiety symptoms.