Help is Out There: Anxiety Treatment for Kids

Treating mental health is crucial at every age, especially for young people. In fact, the CDC reports that the prevalence of anxiety and depression in children has risen over the years. For pediatric patients aged 3 to 17, 9.4% have an anxiety problem; that’s approximately 5.8 million kids in the U.S. alone.

Understanding Anxious Children

It can be difficult to understand your child’s anxiety. They may not realize there is a problem and many kids struggle to communicate how they feel. It’s essential for parents and caregivers to keep an open line of communication with young children so that emotions are understood and issues can be overcome.

Mother comforting her son

Ease Your Child’s Anxiety at Meridian

The mental health professionals at Meridian HealthCare help your child understand and work through emotions. Call today to learn more or to schedule an appointment.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders affect millions of Americans, regardless of age. However, some conditions are more common when it comes to young people and children.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental health condition that affects children and adults. It is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday events and situations. Children with GAD may worry about things like school, family, friends, and their own health, even when there is no obvious reason for concern. This type of anxiety is also common in older children as they begin to face pressures from external factors like schoolwork and peers.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is a mental health condition that affects young children, adolescents, and adults. It is characterized by intense fear, embarrassment, self-consciousness, and anxiety in social situations. Children with SAD may avoid social activities or endure them with great distress. Social anxiety is extremely common in young children who are afraid of people they haven’t met, which often goes away with time. Older children who experience social anxiety may feel extremely self-conscious or embarrassed around others and have difficulty in social situations.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common and normal developmental stage, usually between the ages of eight months and three years. However, in some cases, this type of anxiety can become excessive and persistent, leading to diagnosed separation anxiety disorder (SAD). Children with SAD experience intense distress when separated from their primary caregiver, such as a parent or guardian, and may exhibit physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, and vomiting. When the caregiver leaves, kids with SAD may throw tantrums, cry, or cling to the person leaving.


Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder marked by an intense and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, or activity that poses little or no actual danger. Children with phobias may experience physical and emotional symptoms like sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, and panic attacks when faced with the object or situation they fear. Some common specific phobias include arachnophobia (fear of spiders), acrophobia (fear of heights), and dentophobia (fear of dentists).

Panic Disorder

Children with a panic disorder experience sudden, intense episodes of fear or panic accompanied by physical symptoms like sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, and chest pain. Panic attacks can occur in response to specific triggers or spontaneously without any apparent cause.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that presents itself as persistent and distressing thoughts, images, or impulses (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) aimed at reducing the anxiety caused by the obsessions. Compulsive behaviors are often time-consuming and interfere with a child’s daily activities and development.

While occasional intrusive thoughts or worries are common for most people, OCD causes these thoughts to become excessive, intrusive, and distressful, leading to compulsive behaviors. If you suspect your child may be struggling with OCD, seek help from a mental health professional.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. PTSD in children and adolescents significantly impacts their development and overall well-being.

Traumatic events that lead to PTSD in children can include physical or sexual abuse, natural disasters, car accidents, war, or witnessing violence. PTSD affects young children in a variety of different ways; some frequently relive the event in their minds, while others may repress the memory. Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop immediately after an event or months later. If your child experiences a traumatic event, see a mental health professional.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

While Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is not classified as an anxiety disorder, it commonly co-occurs with anxiety and depression. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. It is a common condition in children and can continue into adulthood.

Symptoms of ADHD in children may include the following:

    • Inattention: difficulty paying attention; being easily distracted, forgetful, or disorganized
    • Impulsivity: acting without thinking; interrupting others; acting on a whim
    • Hyperactivity: fidgeting; excessive talking; constant movement

While all children may display some of these symptoms at times, with ADHD, these symptoms are persistent, frequent, and interfere with daily activities. The diagnosis of ADHD is made through a comprehensive evaluation that takes into account the child’s symptoms, development, and medical history.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

It is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the physical symptoms of anxiety in children and to seek the help of a mental health professional if they are concerned about their child’s well-being. A mental health professional can assess the situation and develop an appropriate treatment plan, which may include therapy and/or medication. With the right support and treatment, children can learn to manage their anxiety and reduce the physical symptoms they experience.

Anxiety Symptoms

    • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
    • Sweating
    • Shaking or tremors
    • Muscle tension or pain
    • Headaches or stomachaches
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping

Treatment Options for Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Treatment for childhood anxiety disorders typically involves a combination of therapy and lifestyle changes. The specific treatment plan depends on the type and severity of the anxiety disorder and the needs of the individual child.

Children with severe anxiety may be prescribed medication, but this treatment plan should also include counseling.

Note: this page is not medical advice. If you or someone you love may have an anxiety disorder, contact a mental health professional for treatment options.

The following are some of the most commonly used treatment options for childhood anxiety disorders.

  1. Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is a broad term for therapy where the child talks with a mental health professional to treat psychological distress and mental health problems. It aims to help people understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors so they can make changes for their overall well-being.
  2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is an evidence-based therapy often used to treat anxiety disorders in children. It helps to identify and challenge negative thoughts and behaviors, and develop coping strategies to manage anxiety.
  3. Family therapy: Family therapy can be useful in treating childhood anxiety disorders, because it improves communication and support within the family while addressing family dynamics that may contribute to the child’s anxiety.
  4. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help children manage their anxiety and reduce physical symptoms.
  5. Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed by a mental health professional for children with anxiety disorders. Medications may include antidepressants, beta-blockers, or anti-anxiety medications. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines are FDA-approved to address anxiety symptoms in older children. Medication provides short-term relief of physical symptoms of anxiety; therapy and counseling address the condition for long-term treatment.

Before starting any new medication, discuss potential side effects with your care provider.

Parents and caregivers must be supportive and involved in their child’s treatment. A team approach that includes the child, their parents, and their mental health professional is the key to effective treatment.

Treatment of Anxiety Disorders at Meridian

Untreated anxiety leaves your child feeling stressed and anxious, affecting their overall well-being. The compassionate mental health professionals at Meridian HealthCare provide anxiety treatment for kids so they can get back to being a kid.

If your child is struggling with anxiety, Meridian is here to help. When you’re ready, so are we!

Get Help Now: 330-797-0070