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What Causes Anxiety Disorders in Children?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 17, 2024
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Anxiety disorders in children may be caused by various factors, including fear of social situations or the loss of a loved one. Anxiety disorders in children may also be caused by a medical condition or long-term illness. Chronic conditions such as cancer may cause psychological disorders that manifest in panic attacks in some children. Drug abuse in children and teenagers may also cause anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Many experts also believe genetics play a key role in anxiety disorders in children.

Some children suffering from cardiac arrhythmias, chronic bronchitis, or asthma may suffer from stress and anxiety disorders. When a child suffers an asthma attack and his breathing becomes compromised, he may experience symptoms similar to a panic attack. These anxiety disorders in children are typically treated with drugs that relieve the distress or hysteria.

Certain medications used to treat adults may have an adverse reaction in some children. Anxiety disorders in children brought on by using certain medications can be treated by changing the medication or altering the dose. Conversely, abusing drugs may also cause a child to suffer mental disorders manifesting in panic attacks.

For some children, intense fear may cause psychological disorders. The fear may be socially oriented, or related to a specific phobia. A child who has an irrational fear of elevators may experience an anxiety attack whenever riding on one. This specific phobia is one cause of anxiety attacks in children and adults.

If a child has recently endured the grief of losing a loved one, he may develop an anxiety disorder as a result of the loss. This is a prime cause of anxiety disorders in children. An irrational fear of dying or of being abandoned may manifest in nightmares, uncontrollable crying, or hysteria. Children exhibiting these symptoms should be seen by a child therapist who specializes in psychological trauma.

When a child has a parent, sibling, or other close relative who has been diagnosed with psychological or panic disorders, he is more likely to also develop this type of disorder. Scientific evidence and medical research has shown that genetics play a critical role in anxiety disorders in children. If the cause is determine to be genetic, the child may be treated with medication or with behavioral therapy. In many cases, group therapy that involves all family members may be beneficial.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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