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The 3 most frequent Anxiety Disorders in children and adolescents

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While in the adult population, mood disorders and anxiety disorders compete for the first position in terms of the most common psychopathologies in Western countries, if we focus on children and adolescents it becomes clear that the latter are significantly more common. In other words, anxiety problems are the mental health problem par excellence during the early stages of life.

However, in order to offer children the support they need in the face of this type of psychological disturbance, it is important that mothers and fathers are able to recognize at least the most common anxiety disorders during childhood and adolescence. Therefore, here I will summarize their characteristics and the warning signs associated with each one of them.

  • Related article: "What is anxiety?"

These are the most common anxiety disorders in children and adolescents

It is known that at such an early stage of development, the fact of suffering an anxious type of psychopathology has a high probability of leaving sequelae if it is not treated

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. And to this we must add that minors experience anxiety in a different way than a psychologically mature person does, for which sometimes fathers and mothers have trouble distinguishing between an anxiety disorder in their son or daughter, on the one hand, and a normal childhood fear, on the other. other.

Therefore, it is important to know well which are the most common anxiety disorders during childhood and adolescence, to quickly detect their symptoms and go to therapy as soon as possible. That being said, let's take a look at the most important diagnostic categories in this age group.

1. specific phobias

Except for agoraphobia, the rest of the phobic disorders are relatively common among children. In the case of specific phobias, these affect around 9% of them.

What characterizes this group of psychopathologies is the activation of a strong anxious reaction to a stimulus from a harmless element: a spider, a pigeon, an airplane, etc. Those who have developed a specific phobia experience these symptoms above all when facing what they have developed this irrational fear of:

  • tremors
  • cold sweats
  • dizziness
  • Rapid acceleration of pulse and respiratory rate
  • Feeling of loss of control over one's own body
  • Need to get out of that place quickly

2. Social phobia

About 7% of children and adolescents develop social phobia. This can be understood as an extreme version of shyness: the person fears being ridiculed by others or earning their rejection by committing any mistake without realizing it, so he tries to avoid at all costs interacting with unknown people or semi-unknown. The symptoms before phobic stimuli are the same as in specific phobias.

  • You may be interested in: "Social phobia: what is it and how to overcome it?"

3. separation anxiety disorder

This psychopathology is developed by between 3 and 8% of children and adolescents; Now, if we focus only on children who have not started the process of adolescence, this could be the most common anxiety disorder among them.

As its name indicates, it consists of an outburst of anxiety that appears when you do not have access to the protective figure of reference, usually the father or the mother. It is especially problematic when dropping children off at school. Its main symptoms are:

  • Nightmares based on the experience of separation.
  • Irrational beliefs about the risk of being kidnapped or lost.
  • High level of anxiety when staying alone at home without the protection of the father or the mother.
  • Anguish when anticipating a moment in which it will happen to "be alone" for a few hours or days.

Separation anxiety disorder should not be confused with selective mutism; This is another anxiety disorder that, although it is more common among minors than in adults, is relatively uncommon also during childhood and adolescence, since it affects less than 1% of little ones.

How is the treatment of these anxiety disorders in minors?

The foundations of therapy for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents start from the same foundation as professional help for adults, although taking into account that the risk of side effects of certain psychoactive drugs (such as anxiolytics) changes depending on the age of the patient, and that psychotherapy sessions cannot be based so much on long conversations about very abstract.

In any case, psychologists use therapeutic strategies such as systematic desensitization or controlled exposure to help little ones face their fear, adjusting the level of difficulty so that they are not overwhelmed by the situation from the first try, and in the case of young children, using auxiliary elements such as toys or stories to create a narrative thread that runs through the whole story. session. Of course, communication and collaboration with parents is essential, and for this reason they are given information on what they can do to help at home.

  • Related article: "How is anxiety treated in psychotherapy?"

Do you want to train in Developmental Psychology?

If you are interested in delving into psychological development in childhood and adolescence and learning more about anxiety disorders in children and adolescents, the Master in Psychological Development in Childhood and Adolescence from Instituto Serca it is perfect for you.

It is a highly specialized and complete program that gives you the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of the most relevant aspects of child and youth psychology. Throughout the master's degree, you will have the support of highly trained professionals who will guide you in your process of learning and will provide you with the necessary tools to apply the knowledge acquired in your practice professional.

Beam click here to learn more about our program and how you can enroll.
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