Anxiety in Children and Teenagers

Anxiety in children and adolescents is more common that you think.  It is normal to have fear or worry, but when it interferes with life activities it needs to be addressed.  Studies show 8% of teenagers are affected and about half have concomitant depression.  Excessive fear and worry about real or imagined circumstances can adversely affect social, personal and/or academic functioning.  Other signs of anxiety are restlessness, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping and difficulty concentrating.
Causes of anxiety are multi factorial- environmental, genetic, brain chemistry, etc..  It is difficult for many to understand panic attacks because their brain is not made that way, but I have seen panic attacks that cripple individuals, making it impossible for them to function.  It is not uncommon for teenagers to have personalities that tend toward anxiety and coupled with outside circumstances, anxiety disorders develop.  Anxiety runs in families, many times a mother or father has similar issues.
Treatment is through medicines and counseling (cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy).  The medicines most commonly used are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) such as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.  These medicines increase a brain neurotransmitter called serotonin in our brains and have minimal side effects.  SSRIs do take a few weeks to build up in your system to work.  SSRIs are used to treat depression, also.
If your child has anxiety that is affecting their lives, please bring them to Dr. Elofson, Fakouri, Perilloux or Cook at Associates in Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine for help and direction.

Rodger H. Elofson, II, MD