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Child Anxiety

Child anxiety is a psychological condition characterized by excessive and persistent worry, fear, or nervousness in children.

What is Child Anxiety?

Child anxiety is a psychological condition characterized by excessive and persistent worry, fear, or nervousness in children. It’s a normal part of development, but when anxiety becomes disproportionate to the situation or interferes with daily life, it may indicate a more significant issue. Common triggers include academic stress, family conflicts, or social situations.

It manifests differently across various age groups due to developmental differences and changing stressors.

  1. Preschool Age (2-5 years): Common anxieties include separation anxiety, fear of the dark, or new social situations. Reassurance and a consistent routine are essential.
  2. Middle Childhood (6-12 years): Children in this age group can have social anxiety, school-related stress, and fear of failure. Cognitive abilities increase, allowing for more complex worries. In this phase, coping strategies and open communication become crucial.
  3. Adolescence (13-18 years): As the child grows, social anxiety intensifies, along with academic pressures and concerns about the future. Peer relationships play a significant role. In this phase cognitive-behavioral strategies, peer support, and professional help are important.

Understanding age-specific anxieties helps tailor interventions, fostering healthy emotional development as children navigate different stages of their lives. Supportive environments, open communication, and strategies for coping with stress can be beneficial.

Treatment for Child Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective and evidence-based treatment for child anxiety disorders. At Light On Anxiety, our specialized therapists are trained to work with children and adolescents to address a wide range of anxiety-related concerns, including generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD and specific phobias.

Through age-appropriate CBT techniques such as cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, and emotional regulation, children learn to identify and challenge negative thoughts and fears, develop coping skills to manage anxiety-provoking situations, and gradually face their fears in a supportive and structured environment.

Our therapists use a compassionate and child-friendly approach to therapy, empowering children to build confidence, resilience, and independence in managing their anxiety.


Medication can be a helpful adjunct to CBT therapy in the treatment of child anxiety disorders, particularly for children with severe symptoms or impairment in daily functioning.

At Light On Anxiety, our team of clinicians work closely with families to assess the need for medication and develop personalized treatment plans.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to reduce anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents.
  • Other medications, such as selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), may be used in certain cases.

Our approach to medication management prioritizes safety, efficacy, and collaboration with families to ensure the best possible outcomes for children with anxiety disorders.

Integrating CBT + Medication

A combined approach of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medication often provides the most comprehensive treatment for child anxiety disorders. At Light On Anxiety, we offer integrated treatment plans that combine evidence-based therapy with medication management to address both the psychological and physiological aspects of anxiety.

Our therapists and medication prescribers collaborate closely to tailor treatment plans to each child’s unique needs and preferences:

  • CBT helps children develop coping skills and address underlying cognitive and behavioral patterns contributing to their anxiety
  • Medication can provide additional support by reducing symptoms and enhancing the effectiveness of therapy.

Our approach involves a careful integration of CBT and medication, depending on patient preferences and clinical needs, to address both the biological and psychological aspects of child anxiety.

  1. Collaborative Treatment Planning: Our experienced team works collaboratively to create an individualized treatment plan that assists you in meeting your treatment goals as effectively and rapidly as possible.  
  2. Patient Empowerment: We believe in empowering you with comprehensive information about child anxiety treatment options, allowing you to make informed decisions about your treatment journey. 
  3. Monitoring Progress: Regular monitoring and adjustments to your treatment plan are made based on your response and progress. This ensures you are obtaining maximum benefits from the time and energy you are putting into the child anxiety treatment process.  
  4. Ongoing Support:  We offer ongoing support and adjustments to your treatment plan as needed, ensuring a comprehensive and personalized approach to your path to healing.

Your Unique Path to Freedom From Child Anxiety 

Our goal is to create a treatment plan that aligns with your needs and preferences, recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique.

What are the symptoms of Child Anxiety?

Childhood anxiety can manifest through various emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms. Here are common signs:

  • Excessive worry or fear.
  • Irritability or restlessness.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying.
  • Perfectionism or fear of making mistakes.
  • Avoidance of certain activities or situations.
  • Clinginess to caregivers.
  • Changes in sleep patterns (insomnia or nightmares).
  • Nail-biting, fidgeting, or other nervous habits.
  • Seeking constant reassurance.
  • Stomachaches or headaches without a medical cause.
  • Muscle tension or trembling.
  • Fatigue or restlessness.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Difficulty making friends.
  • Withdrawal from social activities.
  • Fear of social judgment or embarrassment.

FAQs about Child Anxiety

Yes, there are various tools and questionnaires designed to assess and screen for child anxiety. One commonly used tool is the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED).

The SCARED test is a widely used questionnaire designed to screen for and assess symptoms of various anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. It consists of 41 items, covering different aspects of anxiety, such as separation anxiety, social phobia, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, and school phobia. Parents, caregivers, or the child themselves may respond to the questions, providing information about the child’s experiences and behaviors related to anxiety.

While occasional anxiety is a natural part of a child’s experience when navigating new situations and challenges, vigilance is necessary when specific indicators arise. Intensity and duration become concerning if anxiety is intense, persistent, or significantly interferes with daily life, academic performance, or social activities. Physical symptoms, such as unexplained stomachaches or headaches without a medical cause, should also be noted. Social withdrawal, marked by difficulty making friends or avoiding situations due to anxiety, raises a red flag. If anxiety negatively impacts a child’s ability to participate in age-appropriate activities, learn, or develop relationships, it warrants attention. Moreover, sudden and noticeable changes in behavior, sleep patterns, or appetite associated with anxiety should be addressed to ensure a child’s emotional well-being.

Anxiety can profoundly affect diverse facets of child development, exerting its influence across emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral domains.

In terms of emotional development, prolonged anxiety exposes children to chronic stress, disrupting their emotional regulation and resilience. This can contribute to negative emotions, fostering feelings of fear, worry, and insecurity, thereby impeding the cultivation of positive emotional experiences.

In the realm of cognitive development, persistent anxiety disrupts concentration and cognitive tasks, potentially influencing academic performance. Negative thought patterns may emerge, shaping the child’s perception of themselves and the world.

Socially, anxiety can impair social skills, making it challenging for children to form and maintain relationships, ultimately hindering their social development. Additionally, anxiety might lead to isolation, as anxious children withdraw from social interactions, impacting the development of crucial social skills.

Behaviorally, children coping with anxiety may develop avoidance behaviors, limiting exposure to new experiences and challenges. Anxiety can also interfere with daily routines, affecting a child’s ability to engage in age-appropriate activities.

Furthermore, the impact extends to physical health, as anxiety may manifest as psychosomatic symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches, influencing overall well-being.

Childhood anxiety is a complex issue influenced by various factors, and it’s not necessarily anyone’s “fault.” It’s crucial to avoid placing blame on yourself or others. Anxiety can result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and situational factors.

As a parent, your role is to provide support, understanding, and a nurturing environment. While some aspects of a child’s temperament and predisposition to anxiety may be influenced by genetics, environmental factors such as family dynamics, stressors, and the child’s experiences also play a role.

More About Treatment for Anxiety

What is CBT & ERP for OCD?

Light On Anxiety CEO Dr Debra Kissen describes how CBT & ERP helps clients move past OCD and other anxiety disorders.

Learn more about how we can create a custom individual treatment plan to fit your goals.

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