Pediatric anxiety disorders

When your child or teen has anxiety (anx·​i·​ety), their uncontrollable worries can interfere with school, social life and normal activities. Children’s Health℠ is home to some of the region’s top experts in anxiety and other mental health issues in children. We can work with your family to understand your child and develop a treatment plan that puts them on track to being happier and more resilient.

What are anxiety disorders?

It’s normal for children and teenagers to worry about things like getting hurt, thunderstorms or getting good grades. Anxiety is different. Kids with anxiety have excessive, unmanageable worry that makes it hard to concentrate on necessary tasks or fun activities.

Children and teens with anxiety can feel overwhelmed and helpless. If a child doesn’t get treatment, anxiety can impact schoolwork and friendships, affect sleep and even lead to substance abuse.

What are the different types of anxiety disorders?

There are several types of anxiety in a child, and each type carries distinct symptoms.

These include:

Generalized anxiety disorder

This involves excessive, uncontrollable worry, and can include difficulties with concentration, sleep, energy, muscle tension, irritability and restlessness.

Specific phobia

This is an intense fear of a specific situation or object. It can make a child avoid important or necessary activities.

Social anxiety disorder

This disorder describes persistent, overwhelming anxiety about being judged or rejected in social situations. Children can express this fear by crying, having tantrums or refusing to talk, among other behaviors.

Separation anxiety disorder

This occurs when children experience excessive anxiety when separating from loved ones. Its symptoms can include refusing to leave home, nightmares and uncontrollable worry that a loved one will be harmed.

Panic disorder

In this disorder, intense fear strikes suddenly and regularly, without warning. Physical symptoms like irregular heartbeats, muscle tightness, shortness of breath and sweating often occur.

Selective mutism

In selective mutism, children consistently do not speak in settings where it's necessary to do so. Because of this, schoolwork or necessary activities are negatively impacted.

What are the causes of anxiety disorders?

Causes of anxiety in childhood can include:


If one or both parents suffer from anxiety, it’s more likely their child will have it too.


Children who are exposed to stressful events are more likely to experience anxiety. These events can include things like being exposed to bullying, trauma or abuse, or witnessing a traumatic event. Also, having a parent who is unusually anxious about things like going to school or getting hurt can increase the risk of anxiety.


Children who tend to be sensitive or quiet may be more likely to experience anxiety.

How are anxiety disorders treated?

Therapy and medications have been proven to help children and teenagers overcome anxiety. At Children’s Health, we use the latest treatment approaches to help children be happier and more resilient.

Treatments include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Your child’s doctor or therapist may recommend a form of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This can help your child figure out ways to think and act in situations that normally cause anxiety. CBT focuses on identifying negative thought patterns and changing these thoughts into more positive ones. Your child's doctor may also recommend individual psychotherapy, parent guidance sessions, group psychotherapy (with other children) or school-based counseling, depending on your child’s needs.


Our pediatric psychiatrists specialize in helping children overcome anxiety and many other mental health challenges. If your child’s anxiety is severe and doesn’t respond to behavioral therapy, these doctors can talk to you about medications for anxiety that could help your child. We can prescribe medication if needed.

Anxiety disorders doctors and providers

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How common are childhood anxiety disorders?

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7% of children in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety. Anxiety is more common among teens. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly 1 in 3 of adolescents aged 13-18 have an anxiety disorder.

  • Do childhood anxiety disorders go away?

    Some parents wonder if their child will outgrow their anxiety or if it will go away on its own. If a child’s anxiety interferes with school, activities or social life, it’s best to talk to a doctor or therapist. They can teach you and your child ways to manage anxiety and can prescribe medication if needed.