When it comes to childhood anxiety disorder, treatment depends on the specific type of disorder, the results of a professional assessment, and the individual circumstances of the child affected with the disorder.
Childhood Anxiety Disorders
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, one in every eight children are affected by one or more types a childhood anxiety disorders. These disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Selective mutism
- Specific phobias
Childhood Anxiety Disorder Treatment
The treatments for childhood anxiety disorders fall into three main classifications:
- Psychological Treatments
- Psychopharmacological Treatments
- Environmental Treatments
Depending on the specific case, more than one type of treatment is often used at the same time.
Many different psychological treatments are used effectively for children suffering with anxiety disorders.
One of the most popular treatments is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is also known as CBT. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a talk therapy with sessions that typically last for approximately twelve weeks. This type of therapy teaches children the techniques and skills they need to learn to reduce their feelings of anxiety. The basis of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to teach a child how to identify their patterns of negative behavior and thinking and replace them with ones that are positive. Children are also taught how to tell the difference between thoughts that are unrealistic and those that are realistic.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical behavioral therapy, also known as DBT, teaches children how to cope with the strong negative and emotional feelings they experience, as we as the feelings of conflict within themselves by showing them how to take responsibility for their own problems.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy, also known as ACT, teaches children various strategies of acceptance based on the mindfulness. The concept of mindfulness focuses on living in the moment and is taught as a way to cope with feelings, thoughts and sensations that are unwanted. Mindfulness also teaches children how to experience the things that come into their life without judgment.
Additional Forms of Psychological Treatments
Other forms of psychological treatments that are sometimes used for childhood anxiety disorders include:
- Behavioral therapies such as relaxation training, guided imagery and progressive desensitization
Prescription medications, also known as psychopharmacological treatments, are often used in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy or other forms of psychological treatments. Depending on the severity of the symptoms of the child, the medications are prescribed on either a long-term or short-term basis.
The most popular type of prescription medications for children suffering with anxiety disorders is antidepressants which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Examples of SSRIs include:
Although there are many other types of medications used to treat anxiety disorders, they are not generally used in the treatment of children.
Environmental treatments for childhood anxiety disorders include overall good habits such as getting enough sleep and eating a healthy well balanced diet. In addition, children with anxiety disorders should also:
- Avoid stimulants as much as possible including foods or drinks that contain caffeine
- Avoid nasal decongestants, diet pills and certain cough medicines
- Remove stressful tasks or reduce them as much as possible
- Remove stressful situations or reduce them as much as possible
Child Anxiety Disorder Resources
The following websites provide further information on child anxiety disorders and their treatments:
- The Anxiety Disorders Association of America
- The Child Anxiety Network
- The Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute
Children Are Different
It is important to remember that children are different. Even if two children suffer from the same childhood anxiety disorder, treatment for each child may not be the same. There is no single child anxiety disorder method of treatment that works best for every child. It is very common for one child to have a better or faster response to a specific method of treatment than another child with a diagnosis that is exactly the same.