Because of their worries, children with generalized anxiety disorder have problems paying attention and may be restless and irritable.
Doctors diagnose generalized anxiety disorder based on characteristic symptoms that have lasted 6 months or more.
Training children how to relax is often the best treatment, but sometimes a medication to reduce the anxiety is needed.
(See also Overview of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents Overview of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents Anxiety disorders are characterized by fear, worry, or dread that greatly impairs the ability to function and is out of proportion to the circumstances. There are many types of anxiety disorders... read more and Generalized Anxiety Disorder Generalized Anxiety Disorder Generalized anxiety disorder consists of excessive nervousness and worry about a number of activities or events. People have anxiety more days than not over a period of 6 months or longer. The... read more in adults.)
In children with generalized anxiety disorder, worries are general and encompass many things and activities rather than one specific thing such as being away from their parent (as in separation anxiety disorder Separation Anxiety Disorder Separation anxiety disorder involves persistent, intense anxiety about being away from home or being separated from people to whom a child is attached, usually a parent. Most children feel some... read more ). Controlling the worries is difficult. Stress worsens the anxiety.
These children often have difficulty paying attention and may be hyperactive, restless, and irritable. They may feel keyed up, tense, or on edge. They may also sleep poorly, sweat excessively, feel exhausted, and complain of physical symptoms, such as stomachache, muscle aches, and headache.
The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with disruptions in daily activities and environments that increased anxiety in many children. These disruptions included school closures, isolation from others (extended family, peers, teachers, cultural groups, and religious congregations), the need to live in constrained spaces with family members for weeks to months, parental job loss, and uncertainty about the future.
A visit with a doctor or behavioral health specialist
Sometimes questionnaires about symptoms
The diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder is based on symptoms: excessive worries that do not focus on a particular activity or situation or that include many activities and situations.
General anxiety disorder is diagnosed when symptoms last for 6 months or more.
If anxiety is mild, relaxation training is often the most appropriate treatment. Other types of counseling may also be tried.
If anxiety is severe or counseling is not effective, medications that can reduce anxiety, usually selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) Several types of medications can be used to treat depression: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors, serotonin modulators, and serotonin-norepinephrine... read more (SSRIs) or sometimes buspirone (an antianxiety medication), may be needed.