Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders affecting children and adults in the United States. An estimated 44 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment, even though the disorders are treatable.
The term “anxiety disorder” refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, selective mutism, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, and specific phobias.
Other conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are closely related to anxiety disorders, which some may experience at the same time as depression.
Children, like adults, can also suffer from anxiety. Some symptoms may include agitation, difficulties settling down for bed, problems with transitions, inattention and poor focus, headaches or stomachaches, crying, overly high expectations, and school refusal. It may be difficult to identify anxiety in children, especially when symptoms can overlap with or present themselves as symptoms of learning disabilities or attention deficit disorders. As with adults, child anxiety is treatable and early diagnosis and treatment is essential.
Research is showing that anxiety disorders run in families, and have a biological basis, much like allergies or diabetes. Anxiety disorders may develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.