Are there different types of anxiety?
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There are a number of different types of anxiety. Some common types of anxiety seen in children include separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. You can learn more about each of these, below. Or, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association for more detailed information.
- Separation anxiety disorder is when a child has extreme worries about being away from their home or caregiver, which prevents him or her from functioning normally. A child with separation anxiety disorder might cling to their parents, experience overwhelming homesickness, or refuse to go to school.
- Social anxiety disorder is an extreme worry or fear of being in any social situation, particularly with people they don’t know. Social anxiety is often associated with fear of being laughed at or embarrassed. Social anxiety can appear in different forms depending on the social situations that a child finds anxiety-inducing. A student with social anxiety might refuse to participate in group activities, answer questions in class, or give presentations. Selective-mutism is another form of anxiety that often co-occurs with social anxiety. With selective-mutism, a child will be unable to speak in some situations due to overwhelming anxiety.
- Specific phobias are strong, irrational fears towards an object, event, person, activity, or situation, even when there’s no direct threat or danger. These fears may stop the person from being involved in activities in an effort to avoid the phobia.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) involves excessive and extreme worrying about different activities of daily life such as their home life, school / work, family, health, friends, relationships, and the future. The worrying is out of the individual’s control and it impacts their day to day life and how they function. GAD can change how children function at school or in social situations due to symptoms including sleeplessness, fatigue, restlessness, and reduced concentration.
- Panic disorder occurs when a child experiences intense fear without cause. When someone experiences a panic attack, they often have symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, shortness of breath, upset stomach, crying, or choking. An individual is diagnosed with a panic disorder when they have experienced recurrent panic attacks followed by a concern of having another attack or a change in behavior in order to avoid an attack.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur following a traumatic experience, causing a child to startle more quickly, have trouble sleeping, avoid situations or places similar to the traumatic event, and re-experience the traumatic event (i.e., flashbacks).
- Obsessive compulsive disorder includes repeated thoughts (obsessions) about something the child feels they must do, which are followed by repeated acts on the obsessions (compulsions). For example, a child might have obsessions about germs and cleanliness, so he washes his hands many times a day, or for long periods of time. Performing the compulsions provides the child with relief for a short period of time, but he will begin to experience the obsessions again; it is a cyclical process. An obsessive compulsive disorder usually impacts day to day life as they become so preoccupied with their obsessions and needing to act on them.