What are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are a common mental health condition that predominantly emerge in childhood and adolescence. Studies suggest that up to 30% of young people may experience an anxiety disorder prior to 18 years of age.

Anxiety disorders are often characterized by persistent worries, intense physiological responses, and feelings of distress that lead many children to avoid anxiety-triggering situations.  These strong responses and their resulting avoidance can cause significant impairment at home, in school, and across social interactions.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

  • Fear, worry, and/or avoidance of separation from caregiver
    (e.g., worries about harm happening to caregiver, reluctance/refusal to separate from caregiver or be alone)
  • Fear, worry, and/or avoidance of specific stimuli and/or situations
    (e.g., fear of certain animals or natural environments like heights, fears of blood draws or needles, avoidance/refusal of being in closed spaces like an elevator)
  • Fear of and/or avoidance of social interactions or performance situations
    (e.g., participating in group activities or social events, talking to someone new, speaking in front of a group of people)
  • Excessive general worry about every day and/or real-life problems
    (e.g., perfectionism, worries about academic performance, worries about new situations or a change in plans, worries about health, safety, or the future)
  • Strong physical reactions to fears, worries, and/or anxiety-provoking situations
    (e.g., feeling nauseous, trembling, sweating, heart racing, shortness of breath, feeling restless or on edge, difficulty concentrating or feeling like mind went blank)
  • Strong behavioral responses to fears, worries, and/or anxiety-provoking situations
    (e.g., tantrums, crying spells, running away from the situation)

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

There are two primary evidence-based treatments for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These two treatments have demonstrated efficacy for reducing the severity of anxiety symptoms in randomized clinical trials. In many cases, exposure-based CBT is recommended as the first-line treatment for mild-to-moderate anxiety and can be paired with medication management when symptoms are severe. During exposure-based CBT, clinicians work with patients and families to develop skills and strategies to overcome the symptoms of anxiety.

Our Research on Anxiety Disorders

Please help us learn more about Anxiety and how best to help patients and families overcome these symptoms by participating in our research. You can learn more about our ongoing research studies by visiting the Interested in Participating in Our Research? page. You can also contact us by calling our research coordinator at (443) 287-7157 or by emailing us at .

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