Forms of Anxiety

Anxiety is a complex emotion, and its signs and symptoms may be manifested in different ways. Following are brief descriptions of the forms of anxiety that may occur in children and teenagers. Detailed descriptions, signs and symptoms, causes, treatment and related information can be found by linking to each disorder.

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder — Children with separation anxiety disorder (SAD) have intense anxiety about being away from home or caregivers that affects their ability to function socially and in school. The child may cling to parents, refuse to go to school, or be afraid to sleep alone. Read more.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder — Children with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have recurring fears and worries that they find difficult to control. They worry about almost everything—school, sports, being on time, even natural disasters. They may be restless, irritable, tense, or easily tired, and they may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. Children with GAD are usually eager to please others and may be “perfectionists,” dissatisfied with their own less-than-perfect performance. Read more.

  • Social Phobia — Young people with this disorder are extremely shy and have a constant fear of social or performance situations such as speaking in class or eating in public. They respond to these feelings by avoiding the feared situation. This fear is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or muscle tenseness. Young people with social phobia are often overly sensitive to criticism, have trouble being assertive, and suffer from low self-esteem. Social phobia can be limited to specific situations, so the teenager may fear dating and recreational events but be confident in academic and work situations. Read more.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder — Children with OCD have frequent and uncontrollable thoughts (called “obsessions”) and may perform routines or rituals (called “compulsions”) in an attempt to eliminate the thoughts. These children and teenagers often repeat behaviors to avoid some imagined consequence. For example, a common compulsion is excessive hand washing due to a fear of germs. Other common compulsions include counting, repeating words silently, and rechecking completed tasks. In the case of OCD, these obsessions and compulsions take up so much time that they interfere with daily living and cause a great deal of anxiety. Read more.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — Children who experience a physical or emotional trauma such as witnessing a shooting or disaster, surviving physical or sexual abuse, or being in a car accident may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A child may “re-experience” the trauma through nightmares, constant thoughts about what happened, or reenacting the event while playing. A child with PTSD may experience symptoms of general anxiety, including irritability or trouble sleeping and eating. Read more.

  • Acute Stress Disorder — This disorder refers to the immediate reaction of intense fear, helplessness, or horror of a person exposed to a traumatic event, during which the person experienced, witnessed or was confronted with a situation involving actual or threatened death or serious injury. Examples are rape, mugging. Read more.

  • Panic Disorder (with or without Agoraphobia) — is characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks that may include trouble breathing, lightheadedness, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath. As a result people with this disorder feels intense fear when in certain situations or places. May or may not accompany agoraphobia. Read more.

  • Agoraphobia — involves intense fear and avoidance of any place or situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable if the individual should develop sudden panic-like symptoms. Examples include being in a car or being in crowds. Read more.

  • Specific Phobia — refers to an intense, unreasonable fear of a specific object or situation. Some common phobias are animals, flying, lightening. Read more.

  • Selective Mutism — anxiety regarding speaking in some environments. Typically, children will speak at home within the family, but not in school or in unfamiliar situations. Read more.

  • School Refusal Behavior — refers to children who are entirely absent or truant from school or leave during the day. Although not a disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - IV (DSM-IV), it can be associated with Social Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, and Conduct Disorder. Read more.