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Diagnosing and Treating Anxiety Disorders in Children

All kids experience fear, worry, or shyness at different times in their lives. It’s a natural and normal part of growing up. For some kids, however, anxiety is persistent and overwhelming. When anxiety gets in the way of normal activities and your child or teen’s enjoyment of life, University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital’s Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and Psychology is here to help.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Unlike typical childhood fears or worries, anxiety disorders persist (and often worsen) over time and cannot be eased by the reassurance or comfort of parents or teachers. Anxiety disorders are more than passing phases – they are chronic medical conditions. There are a range of anxiety-related disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety, social anxiety, and phobias. Symptoms are widely varied, but may include:

  • Sleep problems
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Compulsion to perform specific rituals or routines
  • Physical reactions such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, chest pain or nausea
  • Refusal to speak in class or in social situations (selective mutism)
  • Intense, irrational fears

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

If you are concerned about your child’s anxious behaviors, Rainbow’s developmental pediatricians can provide a complete evaluation and help you determine what is dysfunctional and what is typical for your child’s age and developmental level. Anxiety is a treatable disorder; the most common approaches involve cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Our team of developmental pediatricians, child psychologists, clinical social workers and nurses will work with you and your child to develop a personalized treatment plan. We will coordinate care with your family doctor or pediatrician, and we can also work with your child’s school.

We also offer partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, both of which are valuable for children and adolescents not responding to traditional outpatient care.

Through comprehensive, child-centered care, our goal is to work with families to ease children’s symptoms, give kids the tools to manage and overcome their anxiety, and get them back to participating in and enjoying life.