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Everyone experiences anxiety. Anxiety is normal and expected as children grow up, but anxiety can become unhealthy when it starts to get in the way of usual activities. Some anxious children tend to be overly tense or uptight and may seek a lot of reassurance, while other children with anxiety can be quiet or eager to please. Thus, parents should not ignore their child’s fears and should be on the look out for signs of anxiety so that they can help their child early on and avoid serious problems.

There are several different types of anxiety in children. Worries may center around:

  • Being away from parents (Separation Anxiety)
  • Nervousness about different areas of life such as school, family, social situations, health, natural disasters (Generalized Anxiety)
  • A specific thing or situation such as animals, needles, riding in elevators (Specific Phobia)
  • Interacting with other people (Social Anxiety)
  • Having sudden and severe episodes of intense anxiety (Panic Disorder)
  • Not speaking in certain social situations (Selective Mutism)
  • Leaving the house (Agoraphobia)

There is no single cause of anxiety problems. Things like genetics, a child’s personality (e.g., naturally cautious or shy children) and parenting style may play a role in whether a child will develop anxiety problems. If normal fears do not go away with time or begin to interfere with the child’s usual activities, parents should think about getting an evaluation from a child and adolescent psychologist or psychiatrist. Early treatment can prevent future difficulties, such as loss of friendships, poor school performance, and low self-esteem.



Children with anxiety problems may show some of the following signs:

  • Physical complaints (e.g., stomachaches, headaches, tension)
  • Restlessness
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Clinginess
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Few friends or staying away from social situations
  • Overly reserved, emotional, or uneasy in social settings
  • Repeating, bothersome thoughts (obsessions) or actions (compulsions)
  • Fears of embarrassment or making mistakes
  • Low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence



  • About 25% of children will experience anxiety in their lifetime
  • About 6% of children will have “severe” anxiety problems in their lifetime
  • About 9% of youth served by the Hawaii Department of Health have an anxiety diagnosis
  • Girls are more likely to experience anxiety than boys
  • Children with anxiety problems also often have other challenges such as depression, eating disorders, and ADHD
  • Research shows that children with untreated anxiety problems are at higher risk of doing poorly in school, missing out on important social experiences, and abusing drugs or alcohol



  • How can a parent determine if their child has an anxiety disorder? Dr. Deborah Beidel, Professor of Psychology at the University of Central Florida and the Director of UCF Anxiety Disorders Clinic, helps parents understand child and adolescent anxiety disorders. Topics include what to look for to help determine if their child may have an anxiety disorder, who they can turn to for help, the types of treatments that work, how a parent can tell if they are getting an evidence-based treatment, the parent’s role in the treatment of anxiety, the long-term effects of not treating anxiety, and risk factors for anxiety problems. Please click here to watch the video.
  • How can a parent determine if their child’s school refusal is more than typical levels? Dr. Anne Marie Albano, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry at Columbia University and the Director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Columbus Circle, discusses the patterns of school refusal that are atypical, the types of treatments that do and do not work, what to look for in a therapist, and when to start seeking treatment so that their child receives services as soon as possible. Please click here to watch the video.
  • Have you ever wondered what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) looks like? In this video, Dr. John Piacentini, Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences in the David Geffen School of Medicine and Director of the Child OCD, Anxiety, and Tic Disorders Program UCLA, helps parents understand the symptoms of OCD, who to speak to about their concerns, the treatments that work for youth with OCD, their role in treatment, the cause of OCD, and what to expect in the future if their child has OCD. Please click here to watch the video.


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