What is Anxiety?

Fearful and anxious behaviour is common in children. Most children learn to cope with a range of normal fears and worries. However, extra help may be needed when:

  • children feel anxious more than other children of their age and level
  • anxiety stops them participating in activities at school or socially
  • anxiety interferes with their ability to do things that other children their age do easily
  • the fears and worries seem out of proportion to the issues in their life

When children become anxious more easily, more often and more intensely than other children, they may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Common anxiety disorders in children and adolescents include: phobias, generalised anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Specific Phobia

Phobia is diagnosed when particular objects, situations or events such as needles, snakes or heights bring about intense fear and avoidance even though realistically the threat of harm is small.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed when children have excessive and unrealistic worries about a broad range of possibilities. They may worry about things that might happen, their health or the health of their family, about their own past behaviour, or about how good they are at their schoolwork or how popular they are. They often lack confidence and need a lot of reassurance.

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety relates to fear and distress at being away from the family. There is commonly a fear that something bad will happen to a loved one while they are separated. Fear of separation is considered developmentally appropriate up to two years of age, but it should lessen as children get older.

Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may develop following a traumatic event such as being in a serious accident, experiencing a life-threatening event or witnessing extreme violence. Symptoms include changes in sleep pattern, irritability and problems with concentration. There may also be re-experiencing of the event or avoidance of situations or activities that remind them of the traumatic event.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the child is affected by persistent unwanted thoughts, often about dirt or germs, or sometimes a need for symmetry. To try to stop the thoughts the child feels compelled to repeat a particular action, such as washing his or her hands or repeated counting. Older children usually recognise that the thoughts and behaviours do not make sense even though they are driven by them.

What are Indicators my Child may be Anxious?

  • Quiet or withdrawn
  • Not wanting to participate or attend typical activities
  • Somatic complaints – sore stomach, headaches etc
  • Feeling afraid or uncomfortable in normal situations
  • Difficulty with sleep
  • Agitated or restless
  • Clingy
  • Needing frequent reassurance

Intervention for Anxiety

Treatment for anxiety in children and adolescents at YLO Psychology Clinic is based on Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, is a type of talk therapy that has been scientifically shown to be effective in treating anxiety disorders. CBT teaches skills and techniques to your child/adolescent that she can use to reduce her anxiety.

CBT provides adaptive skills to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety as well as cognitive skills to identify and understand negative thinking patterns and separate realistic and unrealistic thoughts.


If you believe your child or adolescent is suffering from anxiety and is struggling to cope please give us a call on 3341 4619 to discuss how we can help.