Severe Anxiety and Phobia in Children – How to Know If a Child Needs Help

Anxiety is one of the most prevalent problems of childhood and adolescence, but the least likely problem to be treated. Common effects of severe anxiety or fears include interference with family relationships, school performance and friendships as well as significant personal distress.

Avoidance is a Key Sign of Severe Anxiety

It is not always obvious that a child’s difficulties are a result of extreme anxiety or fear. Avoidance is the most common outward sign that there may be a problem. Children and adolescents will actively try to avoid encountering anxiety or fear inducing events or objects.

Some parents, and even some health professionals, believe that children will eventually outgrow their problems with severe fears and anxiety. Research clearly shows us that this is not the case. Left untreated, children who suffer from severe anxiety and fears are at greater risk for additional emotional and behavioral problems such as depression and substance abuse.

How do you know whether a child is suffering from severe anxiety or fear?

Examples of interference or impairment in a school setting:

What you may see or hear

What may be happening

Child’s school work is deteriorating because the child is so distracted from worrying

Child has high rate of absenteeism

Due to separation anxiety disorder, e.g., the child worried about being away from mom

Child’s grades are dropping off because child does not participate and does poorly on tests

Due to interfering social evaluative fears, e.g., the child worried about what others think

Child making frequent visits to school nurse and is frequently picked up early by mom

Due to panic disorder, e.g., the child who feels like she needs to vomit every day