What is it?
An anxiety disorder is when we often feel very anxious. This can be anxious about something specific or feeling anxious all the time. Sometimes a person will also have panic attacks. A panic attack is when you feel intense anxiety over a short period of time. Panic attacks can feel overwhelming.
To be diagnosed, the anxiety has to be severe enough that it is affecting the person’s ability to function (such as physically, socially, academically, etc.)
Types of anxiety disorders
- Agoraphobia: Excessive fear of situations in which there is no easy escape or access to help (e.g. wide open spaces, away from home, on public transport, etc)
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder: Excessive fear or anxiety about many things that is difficult for the person to control
- Panic Disorder: Repeated unexpected panic attacks. Fear of further attacks and attempts to avoid further attacks
- Selective Mutism: Failure to speak in certain situations when speech is expected (but able to speak in other situations)
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: Excessive fear of separation from home or caregivers (either intentionally or by accident)
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations (must include anxiety in peer settings for children)
- Specific Phobia: Excessive fear of a specific object or situation which is then actively avoided or, if needed, tolerated with high levels of distress
What will my GP do?
Your GP may refer your child for treatment. Mild to moderate anxiety in children can be treated effectively with early intervention. A referral does not mean that your child is seriously mentally unwell.
Your GP may also:
- Provide strategies to help manage your child’s anxiety
- Refer to a specialist service if the anxiety is severe
Your GP will want your child to come back so they can check how the anxiety is improving.
What can I do?
It is important to support your child in learning how to manage their anxiety. Treatment can often take time.
Some of the things that you can do include:
- Getting treatment early as it helps prevent the anxiety getting worse
- Try not to get frustrated when your child is anxious. It may not make sense to you but their brain is telling them that they are unsafe.
- Look after yourself – you are the child’s main support and it is easy to forget to maintain good self-care.