It’s normal for children to have fears. They’re often afraid of monsters, ghosts, or the dark. At times, they might be frightened by a book or movie. In most cases, these fears fade over time. But children with anxiety disorders are always afraid. This may cause them great distress and it can prevent them from having a normal life. No child should have to suffer from constant fear. Talk to your health care provider or a mental health professional. He or she can help.

Resources

National Institute of Mental Health www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml 888-826-9438

Anxiety Disorders Association of America www.adaa.org 301-231-9350

What Is an Anxiety Disorder?

An anxiety disorder causes children to be intensely fearful in situations that you would not normally expect fear. They may be afraid of certain objects, such as dogs or snakes. Or, they may fear a situation, such as being alone in the dark. Sometimes they may be too afraid to leave the house.

What Is Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Some children may have separation anxiety disorder. This causes them to dread being away from a parent or other loved one. They may worry that they’ll be harmed or never see their family again. In some cases, these children refuse to go to school. They also may have physical symptoms, such as nausea or stomachaches.

Girl sitting in chair talking to healthcare provider. Woman is looking on.

Overcoming the Fear

Fortunately, most anxious children can be helped with behavior therapy. This helps them slowly confront their fears. At first, your child may just think about the feared object. Later, he or she may face it in person. When your child feels safe with one step, he or she can go on to the next. Over time, your child will be less afraid. Sometimes, certain medications may also help lessen your child’s fears.

Your Role

A mental health professional can tell if your child has an anxiety disorder. If so, your love and support can help your child overcome his or her fears.

Last Annual Review Date: 2008-01-01T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: 2000-2010 The StayWell Company, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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More than 18 percent of American adults have some form of anxiety disorder-the most common mental illness in the United States.