Pediatric Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Pediatric Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and unrealistic worry about everyday things, such as storms, running out of gas, past conversations or actions, upcoming events, school, family health, etc. Children with this disorder have a really hard time controlling these worries, enough so that the worries have a significant impact on the child’s daily functioning. The anxiety and worry are associated with at least three* of the following six symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance
*Only one of the above symptoms is required for diagnosis in children
Children with GAD tend to worry more often and more intensely than would other children in the same situations. Their worries may focus on performance (school, athletic), safety (of self and of others), or on natural disasters and future events.
While the focus of the child’s worries may change (e.g., from worries about school to worries about health), the consistent factor is the inability to control the worry. This difficulty in “turning off” the worry can lead to restlessness, slower processing, and impaired focus/concentration. The child may seek constant reassurance that everything is okay, and this may interfere with the child’s interpersonal relationships. Additionally, these children may present as “little perfectionists” and may insist on redoing even small tasks several times until they get it “just right.”
The Tarnow Center offers a variety of approaches to the treatment of childhood anxiety disorders.
- Individual Therapy: Individual work focuses on developing specific skills for managing anxiety, while also addressing the struggles with daily stressors and low self-esteem that often accompany a diagnosis of anxiety.
- Biofeedback: Like individual therapy, Biofeedback works by teaching specific anxiety management skills to the client. Biofeedback employs the use of technology to make the client more aware of the internal processes that contribute to anxiety, and in doing so, teaches the client to better control these processes.
- Family Therapy: Family work is important in the treatment of anxiety in that it focuses on developing open communication and expression of emotion, while teaching parents techniques to utilize at home with the anxious child.
- Group Therapy: Groups provide safe and appropriate social training where the child can get feedback from peers and adults about how to regulate their behavior.