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Anxiety Disorders in Children Information

  • This community is for parents and caregivers of children who exhibit signs of anxiety. Anxiety refers to a complex combination of negative emotions that includes fear, apprehension and worry, and is often accompanied by physical sensations such as palpitations, nausea, chest pain and/or shortness of breath...
  • Anxiety is often described as having cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. The cognitive component entails expectation of a diffuse and uncertain danger. Somatically the body prepares the organism to deal with threat (known as an emergency reaction); blood pressure and heart rate are increased, sweating is increased, bloodflow to the major muscle groups is increased, and immune and digestive system functions are inhibited. Externally, somatic signs of anxiety may include pale skin, sweating, trembling, and pupillary dilation. Emotionally, anxiety causes a sense of dread or panic, nausea, and chills.

    Behaviorally, both voluntary and involuntary behaviors may arise directed at escaping or avoiding the source of anxiety. These behaviors are frequent and often maladaptive, being most extreme in anxiety disorders. However, anxiety is not always pathological or maladaptive: it is a common emotion along with fear, anger, sadness, and happiness, and it has a very important function in relation to survival.

    Treatments for anxiety include medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy. A combination of the two has proved the most effective in alleviating symptoms; medication alone may reduce some anxiety but will not eliminate it entirely.

    SSRIs are commonly used to treat anxiety. Examples include SSRIs such as sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram, and escitalopram. Benzodiazepenes such as diazepam and alprazolam are sometimes used in the short-term in order to alleviate extreme cases of anxiety, but they are not safe for continuous use because of the high risk of dependency. Conversely, it is very safe for a person to be on an SSRI antidepressant for many years. The anti-anxiety drug buspirone is sometimes used in addition to or instead of SSRIs in the treatment of anxiety.

    SSRIs work because both anxiety and depression are thought to be associated with the neurotransmitter serotonin; thus a great deal of people who experience depression also experience anxiety symptoms. When both disorders are diagnosed, this is called comorbidity. Other antidepressant drugs such as tricyclics and MAO inhibitors are not used in the treatment of anxiety.

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Julie Hanks, LCSW
Licensed Psychotherapist

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