What is generalized anxiety disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition in which your child has fears and uncontrollable worries that last for at least 6 months. If your child has GAD, he worries a lot about everyday problems. Your child is tense and nervous much of the time. He worries that something bad is going to happen even when there is little reason to think that way.
GAD can last many years and sometimes an entire lifetime.
What is the cause?
The exact cause of this disorder is not known.
- The brain makes chemicals that affect thoughts, emotions, and actions. Without the right balance of these chemicals, there may be problems with the way you think, feel, or act. Children with this disorder may have too little or too much of some of these chemicals.
- Generalized anxiety disorder tends to run in families. It is not known if this is caused by genes passed from parent to child. It may also be that parents fear and worry a lot, and children learn this behavior from the parents.
- Stressful life events and situations also play a major part. Alcohol, illegal drugs, or medical conditions can cause anxiety.
- Some medicines can cause anxiety or make it worse. These include asthma medicines, caffeine and stimulant medicines, and steroids such as prednisone.
- Anxiety is more common if your child has few friends, family, and activities. Poor diet and lack of daily exercise may also make anxiety disorders more likely.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include worrying too much about things that your child canâ€™t control. Your child may be short-tempered and unable to focus or concentrate because of the worrying. Physical symptoms may include:
- Muscle tension
- Sleep problems
- Nausea, sweating or shaking
- Having a very fast heartbeat
- Feeling out of breath or like fainting
- Needing to go to the bathroom often
How is it diagnosed?
Your child’s healthcare provider or a mental health therapist will ask about the child’s symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines the child is taking. He or she will make sure that your child does not have a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms.
How is it treated?
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helps your child learn new ways to manage anxiety.
Family therapy may also be helpful. Family therapy treats the whole family rather than just your child. Children often feel very supported when parents and siblings attend therapy with them and work as a group.
If your child has severe symptoms, both behavioral therapy and medicine may be best. Several types of medicines can help treat anxiety. Your childâ€™s healthcare provider will work with you and your child to select the best medicine. Your child may need to take more than one type of medicine.
What can I do to help my child?
Get emergency care if your child or teenager has ideas of suicide, harming himself, or harming others.
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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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