What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in Children and Teens?

What is GAD?

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a reletively common mental health problem. Often, the anxiety and fear, doesn’t seem to have a specific cause.

If your child, or teen worries excessively and unrealistically about most things for six months or more, they may have GAD. It’s not the worries themselves that are unrealistic, but the extent of the worrying.

Children and teens with GAD often have some of the following, common symptoms. Although every case can be different….

  • They often worry about their, or the parents’ safety.
  • They may refuse to go to school.
  • They may complain of frequent stomach aches, headaches, etc.
  • They may complain of feeling ‘stiff’ or tense.
  • They may have problems sleeping.
  • They worry about things before they happen.
  • They worry about friends, school, etc.
  • They may often be fatigued (extreme tiredness).
  • They may lack concentration.
  • They may be unable to relax.
  • They may worry about sleeping away from home.
  • They may develop ‘Clingy’ behaviour with family members.
  • They may be ‘jumpy’, or easily startled.
  • They may often be grouchy, or in a bad mood.

 

All children feel anxious at some point, it’s almost a ‘right of passage’. But in children and teens with GAD, the anxiety and fear doesn’t go away. That’s when it starts to interfere with their everyday life and they may actually have an anxiety disorder.

 

What do Children with GAD worry about?

Young people with GAD worry about a whole range of different things. Things like….

  • Future events, or activities.
  • Whether they’ll be accepted by their peers.
  • How they’re performing at school.
  • Will they fit in socially with the people around them.
  • Not feeling ‘Good’ enough.
  • Will any of the things they’ve done in the past, influence their future?
  • Are they, in some way the cause of other people’s issues?

 

One thing that makes it more devastating in children and teens, is that unlike in an adult with GAD, they don’t realise their anxiety can be out of proportion with the event.

You should contact your child’s health care professional as soon as possible if they…

  • Mention, or display suicidal thoughts.
  • Feel extreme depression, fear, or anxiety.
  • Feel anger toward themselves or others.
  • Feel out of control.
  • Hear voices that others don’t hear.
  • See things that others don’t see.
  • Exhibit behaviour that concerns you, friends, family, or teachers.

 

How Can I Help?

Most cases of GAD will require some form of treatment to help. This can take many forms including, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication, or some form of Family Therapy.

There’s also many things you can do to help….

 

  • Get them to practice slow, deep breathing.
  • Practice progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Get them a stress toy to use when they get anxious.
  • Be supportive and understanding.

A child with anxiety can’t just ‘relax’, or ‘chill-out’ when you ask them to. But, by being there and supporting them, they will learn to cope more successfully.

If this info was helpful, why not share it on Social Media using the buttons below. If you have any questions, or some further info, let me know in the comments.


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Steve, the Founder of Teen Anxiety UK, has been writing books and articles about various aspects of Psychology since 2006.

His formal qualifications include Clinical Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Child Psychology.

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