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What is Anxiety?


According to the DSM-V, anxiety disorders include disorders that share features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral disturbances.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.1% (approximately 4.4 million) of children are diagnosed with anxiety disorder.

Criteria & Symptoms of Anxiety

Fear: an emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat

Anxiety: an anticipation of future threat

Avoidance: coping by avoiding the situation that causes fear or worry.

Associated Cognitive Ideation: blowing situations out of proportion, making quick judgments without knowing factual evidence, attributing an external situation to themselves even if there is no relation, extreme thinking (all-or-nothing thinking), negatively labelling themselves based on past situations.

Physical Symptoms: fatigue, headaches/migraines, stomach pains, difficulty sleeping, excessive sweating

Anger, fight-or-flight reactions

Anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear and anxiety by being excessive or persisting beyond developmentally appropriate periods (often lasting 6 months or more).

**Not attributed to physiological effects of substance or another medical condition.

Types of Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  • Excessive anxiety and worry most days for at least 6 months. 
  • Often, anxiety about general and routine life circumstances (personal health, work, social relationships/interactions, school, etc.)
  • Some symptoms include difficulty managing feelings and thoughts of worry/anxiety, low concentration, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and muscle tension.
  • Most common type of diagnosed anxiety.

Panic Disorder

  • Recurrent and unexpected panic attacks.
  • Panic attacks are periods of intense fear that come on suddenly and unexpectedly as a result of a trigger–which often is a feared object or situation. 
  • Symptoms of panic attacks can include heart palpitations, sweating, shaking/trembling, sensations of not being able to breathe, feelings of being out-of-control, etc.

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

  • Excessive worry or fear about being apart from family members or individuals who the child is most attached to.
  • Separation anxiety is developmentally common for children between the age of 18 months and 3 years; however, separation anxiety disorder is more severe than mild anxiety that a young child may feel of being separated from a attached figure.
  • Symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder are refusing to sleep alone, excessive distress when separation is anticipated or occurs, excessive worry about attached figure’s safety, physical symptoms (stomachaches, headaches, nauseousness, etc.), excessive clinginess (even with the attached figure), etc.


  • An intense fear of–or aversion to–specific objects or situations.
  • Symptoms include irrational or excessive fear of encountering a specific object/situation, taking active steps to avoid the feared object/situation, and intense and uncontrollable anxiety when faced with feared object/situation.
  • Specific (or simple) phobias are can include heights, small spaces, specific animals, flying, blood, etc.
  • Social phobia (now named Social Anxiety Disorder–see below)

Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Intense fear or worry towards social or performance situations.
  • Often, stems from a fear of being embarrassed or negatively evaluated by others. 

Gender Differences

Most anxiety disorders occur in females than in males (approximately 2:1 ratio)

Social Anxiety Disorder, however, has an equal ratio between gender – no prevalent gender difference.

Supports for Anxiety

  • Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Medication
  • School supports such as classroom accommodations, additional assistance, etc.
  • Familial and social supports
  • Exercise
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