Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and two other anxiety disorders – separation anxiety and social anxiety – are among the most commonly experienced psychiatric problems in youngsters. Similar to adult estimates, girls are about twice as likely as boys to have GAD.
GAD symptoms are distressing and can be impairing not just for the child or teen; the family as a whole (parents and siblings) can be impacted as well.
Studies have shown that early-onset anxiety disorders put children and teens at risk for problems in adulthood (including anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders). The good news in all this is that if detected early, many children and teens will experience a big, if not full, improvement in their symptoms. Early treatment may also prevent the development of other psychiatric problems later.
Signs and Symptoms
GAD presents similarly in children, adolescents, and adults. The main diagnostic differences (i.e., the threshold necessary to meet to receive a formal diagnosis) are (1) that children and teens may worry more about their abilities or the quality of their performance (in school or extracurricular activities, for example) than about a wide range of topics and (2) their anxiety need only be associated with one physical problem.
– Deborah R. Glasofer, PhD
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