What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
While everyone worries at times, children, adolescents, and adults with anxiety disorders worry more than other people. Their worry is likely a reaction to the stress they experience. Chemicals in the brains of people with anxiety disorders are affected differently by life stressors (e.g., divorce, tests, death) than are people’s brains that do not suffer from anxiety disorders. Excessive worrying, as seen in anxiety disorders, runs in families. Approximately 6% of children and 18% of adults have anxiety disorders. Anxiety is more commonly experienced by females than males.
There are several types of anxiety that you or your child may experience. Some of the diagnoses are:
- Separation Anxiety
- Social Phobia
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
While each anxiety disorder listed above has a unique set of diagnostic criteria, some common symptoms you or your child may experience are:
- Difficulty being away from home or worry when your child is away from parents
- Fear or avoidance of social situations
- Uncontrollable thoughts or repetition of specific behaviors
- Difficulty controlling your worry
- “Re-experiencing” a trauma
Anxiety disorder assessments are usually performed by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Diagnosis occurs through a combination of techniques and includes a clinician, client, and parent(s), teacher(s), and significant other(s) if applicable. Observations of how the client behaves at school, work, or home are made by appropriate people, often using structured observation forms. The clinician will conduct an interview with the client to learn about the client’s past and current functioning. The client will also participate in a neuropsychological evaluation.
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