Your Burning Questions About Anxiety in Kids, Answered

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

All children and adolescents have, and experience, anxiety—it’s natural for all of us to have some anxiety. But when kids have a lot of anxiety, or don’t know ways to manage it, it can impact their education, their relationships, and their development.

It can be tough for children to explain how anxiety is making them feel. Expression of anxiousness in kids and teens may be mistaken for a mood disorder. So how can we tell what’s healthy anxiety, when they need to talk to someone, or if it’s something more than anxiety? How can we help loved ones talk about—and manage—their anxiety?

Audience Questions

R. Meredith Elkins, PhD, discusses healthy and unhealthy levels of anxiety in kids, shares similarities and differences between anxiety disorders and mood disorders, and answers audience questions about how, by helping our children with their anxiety, we can also help ourselves.

  • What are some of the differences between a “healthy” and “unhealthy” anxiety response in kids?
  • What are some of the common symptoms of anxiety in kids, and as they age, do these symptoms change?
  • Do different types of anxiety have different symptoms? For example, if a kid is anxious about performance in school, will that manifest differently than being anxious about social situations?
  • How do I know if my child is just shy or if they’re socially anxious?
  • If I’m an anxious person, what’s the likelihood that my child or children will also have anxiety? Is there a genetic or hereditary component of anxiety disorders?
  • What is the best way to address selective mutism in a child?
  • Can you speak more to panic disorder and panic attacks in children?
  • When does it become more evident that a child may be suffering from ongoing, long-term generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)? Or is GAD not typically diagnosed in children?
  • How do I know when to seek professional care for a 5-year-old that is showing signs of anxiety?
  • Is it possible for anxiety to be temporary and get better without therapy or medication? Should I be prepared for a longer-term struggle with my 6-year-old, or might she grow out of this? When should I consider seeking help?
  • Can anxiety present as anger, defiance, or explosive behavior?
  • Is there overlap between anxiety and ADHD? If they are cooccurring together, are they treated separately or is there overlap in treatment as well?
  • What are some similar symptoms between anxiety and mood disorders in children?
  • A child in foster care is in the midst of potty training and doing well with it. However, after visits with the biological mother, they always have an accident. Could this be anxiety driven?
  • How can we help ease anxiety in our kids about the scary, “adult” things going on in our world today—for example, ongoing pandemic, conflict in Ukraine, etc.?

Resources

You may also find this information useful:

About Dr. Elkins

R. Meredith Elkins, PhD, is a clinical psychologist specializing in the cognitive behavioral treatment of anxiety, mood, and related disorders in children, adolescents, and young adults. Dr. Elkins has established integrated lines of research encompassing the development, identification, and treatment of anxiety disorders in childhood.

Dr. Elkins is currently a program director at the McLean Anxiety Mastery Program (MAMP), an intensive group-based outpatient program for children and adolescents with anxiety disorders and OCD.

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