Learn how to recognize the signs, symptoms, and effects of anxiety. Resource Treatment Center provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric treatment for youth who are suffering from anxiety.
Learn about anxiety
Anxiety is an emotional state that every child or adolescent experiences from time to time, in instances such as an upcoming test, starting at a new school, or moving to a new town. While this type of anxiety is normal throughout an individual’s life, those who have an anxiety disorder experience such distress that it prevents them from living a normal life. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
Generalized anxiety disorder: This anxiety disorder involves excessive amounts of unrealistic worrying, even if there is nothing to actually be worried about.
Panic disorder: This type of anxiety disorder strikes suddenly without a warning, causing an individual to have extreme feelings of dread. When a panic attack occurs, an individual experiences a number of symptoms that make the person feel as if he or she is having a heart attack.
Social anxiety disorder: This involves the overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations, such as the fear of being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment.
Specific phobias: A specific phobia is the intense fear of a certain object or situation. In this case, the level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid certain situations.
The type of anxiety disorder a child or adolescent is suffering from and the support system that is available to him or her will determine the level of dysfunction the disorder has on his or her life. Without proper treatment, anxiety disorders can lead to the development of serious problems in school, at home, and within a child or adolescent’s interpersonal relationships.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated 40 million adults over the age of 18 are believed to suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. However, anxiety does not only affect adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that approximately 1.8 million children under the age of 18 are struggling with an anxiety disorder, and additional research has shown that nearly 10% of children suffer from specific phobias.
Causes and risk factors for anxiety
As is the case with most mental health disorders, experts are unable to pinpoint one exact root cause of anxiety. More likely than not, there are a variety of causes and risk factors that play a role in whether or not an individual will be susceptible to developing anxiety. Some of these factors include:
Genetic: Multiple studies have shown that anxiety runs in families, meaning that they can be inherited from one or both parents. Additionally, an individual’s genetic makeup plays a significant role in shaping their personality and temperament, which greatly affects the way in which that person responds to things and how he or she copes with stress. The way in which an individual is able to manage his or her levels of stress can make them more or less susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder.
Physical: Similar to other brain illnesses, anxiety disorders may be the result of problems within the functioning of the brain circuits that regulate fear and other emotions. Additionally, severe or long-lasting stress can change the way in which nerve cells in these circuits transmit information from one region of the brain to the other.
Environmental: Finally, certain environmental factors may be a trigger for anxiety in individuals who are susceptible to developing one of these disorders.
- Often in highly stressful environments
- Having a lack of social and family support
- Experiencing a traumatic event
- Poor living conditions
- Family problems
- Exposure to violence
- Family history of mental illness
- Personal history of mental illness
- Financial difficulty
- Being unemployed
- Being a victim of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
Signs and symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety symptoms will depend upon the type of anxiety disorder that the child or adolescent is suffering from, as well as other individual factors. The following are various examples of symptoms that may be present in an individual who is struggling with some type of anxiety disorder:
- Heightened startle response
- Repetitive speaking
- Performing ritualistic behaviors
- Refusing to or being incapable of fulfilling obligations
- Avoidance of certain people, places, or situations
- Muscle tension
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension
- Chronic headaches
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands or feet
- Heart palpitations
- Stomach problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to make decisions
- Obtrusive compulsions
- Racing thoughts
- Memory problems
- Repetitive thinking
- Consistently feeling nervous
- Feelings of panic or fear
- Overwhelming, inexplicable feelings of guilt
- Emotional detachment
- Dramatic and sudden changes in mood
Effects of anxiety
When you have an anxiety disorder, it causes much more distress in your life than constant worry. The good news is that, with proper treatment, anxiety disorders can be managed. However, if left untreated, the long-term effects can have serious negative implications. Examples of some of these effects may include:
- Academic or occupational failure
- Poor quality of life
- Trouble sleeping
- Digestive problems
- Social isolation
- Deterioration of strong interpersonal relationships
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Anxiety and co-occurring disorders
People who suffer from an anxiety disorder often meet criteria for another mental illness as well. The most commonly noted mental disorders known to co-occur with an anxiety disorder include:
- Other anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Depressive disorders
- Eating disorders
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder