Fear and anxiety in children

Some children experience anxiety disorders, often a strong emotional response to an intense experience. But mostly, a childs fears are a predictable rite of passage.

Children’s minds and emotions are constantly changing and developing, and they do not all develop at the same rate, so it is not always easy to distinguish normal fears from those that require special attention.

According to Harvard Medical School, here are the different types of fears that children might get confronted with:

(1) Generalized anxiety disorder: Children with this disorder are self-conscious, self-doubting, and excessively concerned about meeting other people’s expectations. They need constant reassurance and approval from adults.

(2) Social anxiety disorder (social phobia): Children with this disorder are painfully shy and fear exposure to anything unfamiliar. They cling to their parents and may be afraid of other children as well as adult strangers at an age when it is no longer normal. They may be afraid of reading aloud, starting a conversation, or attending a birthday party.

(3) Obsessive-compulsive disorder: This disorder consists of intrusive unwanted thoughts (obsessions) which cause mounting tension that is sometimes relieved by repetitive actions (compulsions). It is usually classified as an anxiety disorder because the obsessions often involve a fear, such as contracting a disease or the death of a parent

(4) Panic disorder: In a panic attack, a sudden feeling of overwhelming dread or impending doom is accompanied by intense physical sensations — sweating, heart palpitations, chest pain, trembling, breathlessness, dizziness and nausea. Repeated panic attacks and fear of them can lead to constant worry about future attacks and their implications, including thoughts of losing control, “going crazy,” or dying.

(5) Separation anxiety: Fear of being away from home or one’s parents, normal in the very young, is called separation anxiety disorder when it persists in older children. It may develop spontaneously or under stress, such as a death in the family, and can also result from social phobia or panic attacks.

(6) Simple phobias: Fear of certain specific objects or situations is common, normal, and usually temporary in young children. These fears come and go rapidly up to the age of 10 and require treatment only if they are excessive and unreasonable, persist for a long time, or occur at an inappropriate age. Some common objects of phobias are thunderstorms, water, elevators, choking, blood, large animals, and insects....