Anxiety in Children & Adolescents

Peter Brown

Anxiety is a common emotion we have all experienced. At some stage in their life, every individual will feel anxious when faced with a difficult situation. Sweating, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, butterflies in the stomach, and a dry mouth, are typical symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety is best understood when compared with the emotion of fear. We experience fear in the presence of real, immediate danger; for example, being chased by a vicious dog.

Alternatively, anxiety is a more general response that may be out of proportion to envioronmantal threats. Specifically, anxiety tends to be associated with worrying about future or past difficulties, rather than an immediate situation. For example, an individual worrying before an examination represents an anxious response.

All children experience anxiety, as part of their normal development. However, what may be considered an appropriate fear at an early stage of development, for instance a fear of the dark at age three, or a fear of going to school in Grade 1, may be considered less appropriate, when a child reaches adolescence. In other words, an individual’s age must be taken into account when thinking about anxiety responses. Children and youth experience different levels of anxiety, and cope with anxiety in more or less effective ways.

Anxiety becomes a problem when it prevents individuals from enjoying normal life experiences for a long period of time.

Where to start to get help:

  • Start with your family GP or a clinical psychologist who specialises in child mental health issues
  • You may be referred to a child psychiatrist for further assessment.

Comments are closed.