Anxiety Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence


Anxiety symptoms are ubiquitous in youth. Clinicians need to be familiar with the normal developmental course of anxieties in youth and their consequent mastery by children in order to differentiate normative versus pathological anxiety. Anxiety symptoms do not necessarily constitute an anxiety disorder.

Fear and anxiety are common experiences across childhood and adolescence. The clinician evaluating childhood anxiety disorders faces the task of differentiating the normal, transient and developmentally appropriate expressions of anxiety from pathological anxiety. Adept assessment and management of anxiety symptoms through reassurance, anticipatory guidance and psychoeducation of parents may forestall the development of full blown anxiety syndromes. Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents affecting from 7-15% of individuals under 18 years of age. Anxiety disorders are not rare and often mimic or are comorbid with other childhood disorders. Symptoms such as school refusal, tantrums, or irritability may be less reflective of oppositional behavior than an underlying social phobia or generalized anxiety disorder. Given the uniqueness of each child and the complex interplay among the internal and external variables that drive anxiety, a multimodal approach to diagnosis and treatment is warranted.

Anxiety disorders are a heterogeneous group of disorders that vary in their etiology, treatment, and prognosis. Given these differences, we will discuss each condition individually to help the primary care clinician in parsing out the necessary details of each disorder.

Download our recommended protocol for anxiety disorders of childhood and adolescence