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Author: Dr Sabina DosaniConsultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

Children and young people with GAD will have recurrent worries about lots of things. These worries will often be accompanied by a sense of restlessness or feeling on edge all the time. Your child might also become very tired, very sensitive and just not be ‘right’.

What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

We all worry about different aspects of our lives at times. That’s completely normal. Children with GAD worry a great deal more, so much so that worrying gets in the way of school work, friendships and family life, and these worries are often out of their control.

It can be hard for parents of children and teenagers with GAD to know how to manage their child’s anxiety; often the child’s concerns can seem unrealistic or even irrational. However, it is important to note that for the child, their concerns are very real and can be all consuming – causing huge emotional distress and often preventing them from taking part in normal day to day activities.

50%
Of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24


Symptoms of GAD in children and teenagers:

  • Difficulties sleeping / fatigue
  • Uncontrollable worry about different situations
  • Unrealistic fears about normal daily activities
  • Concern over future events or events years down the line
  • Perfectionism with school work
  • Constant ‘what if’ ruminations
  • May feel responsible for lots of things that are completely out of their control, for instance your job promotion
  • Need for lots of reassurance
  • Difficulties concentrating on a task
  • Physical complaints such as headaches and stomach aches

The whole process was so easy and it was just a huge relief to get our daughter seen by someone with so much experience in the field. We are beginning to see a change in her now and feel much more helpful for the future.

Ali, Cambridge


How can I help my child?

Some life events will naturally cause your child more worry, for instance exam periods can be very stressful times and hormonal fluctuations can make anxiety more of an issue.

However, if your child or teenager has been showing signs of anxiety for more than a few weeks, if their mood has dropped, school work suffered and if they are not spending as much time with friends or enjoying life in the same way they did before then it is advisable to seek professional help.

Your child may benefit from an assessment with a psychiatrist – a doctor with expertise in mental health. Not only with this assessment look at the anxiety symptoms your child is experiencing, but will look at whether there are any other underlying factors or conditions that need to be considered, in order to find the most effective treatment.

In my experience, a diagnosis of Generalised anxiety disorder, and the correct treatment is important, as sadly children and teenagers with Generalised Anxiety Disorder are more likely to go on to develop depression, suffer with school truancy, turn to substance abuse and self-harm. It’s often really hard for parents to know the best ways to parent a child who has an anxiety disorder as many worry they might make things worse. I’ve seen many families under a lot of strain when they have a child who is struggling with a mental health condition. Seeking early support for your child and considering some parenting support for yourself can make a huge difference to everyone in the family.
MBBS, MSc, MRCPsych

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
London

Dr Sabina Dosani is a highly experienced Consultant Psychiatrist currently working for the Anna Freud Centre looking after Children and Adolescents. She has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery as well as being a member of the Royal College...

 

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