Child anxiety is a common mental heath condition characterized by changes in mood, behavior and functioning that persists for at least several weeks and cause difficulties in daily life. For children, this might mean academic or behavioral difficulties at school, difficulties interacting with peers, or withdrawing from family. Child anxiety is more than simply being in a bad mood, feeling sad, or having a negative attitude and includes other significant psychological, biological, and behavioral changes.
Child Anxiety Signs and Symptoms
Frequent Mood Swings
Loss of Energy or Fatigue
Thoughts of Death or Suicide
- Academic difficulties (e..g, drop in grades, not doing school work)
Change in Appetite
- Behavioral issues (e.g., getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school)
Anxiety Treatment for Children
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most researched and scientifically proven psychotherapy for treating anxiety in children. CBT is a very practical and easy to understand treatment approach that emphasizes the here-and-now and the development of effective coping skills and strategies. In children, more emphasis is typically placed on behavioral interventions than on the development of insight.
Behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for anxiety in children and is recommended as a first-line treatment. The focus is on shaping the behavior to more positive and healthy outcomes. Through skill building and active involvement with parents/caregivers, behaviors can be reinforced and unlearned leaving a strong base for growth and development. For more severe cases of anxiety a combination of medication and psychotherapy is typically recommended.
Certain medications (i.e., SSRIs) are commonly used to treat anxiety in children and like psychotherapy have been proven to be effective. While the use of medication to treat anxiety in children has grown steadily over the past couple of decades there remains concern regarding the safety of some medication use in children. For more information regarding the use of medications in treating depression in children click here to visit the NIMH website on the matter.
Family therapy is also commonly recommended for children who are experiencing anxiety. Family therapy aims to help parents and caregivers learn how to more effectively provide support and create a less stressful environment for the child. Individual therapy with children is more effective when parents and/or caregivers take an active role in treatment.