What is Childhood Anxiety?

Anxiety is feeling afraid, scared, worried, or nervous about things that might happen in the future or seem dangerous or unpredictable.


It is normal for children to experience anxiety in stressful situations. For example, many kids and teens feel scared or nervous on the first day of school; some youth describe feeling butterflies in their stomach. For most individuals, these anxious feelings go away once they get used to the new experience, but for others the feelings remain intense over time. When these feelings do not go away, they may be a sign of a childhood anxiety disorder.

Childhood anxiety disorders occur when feelings of stress or fear persist and are intense enough to interfere with everyday life. Childhood anxiety disorders can take many forms, but all involve excessive worry and stress. Children and teens with anxiety disorders are often distressed and easily frightened or upset, and they may have difficulty interacting with others.

It's fine to feel butterflies

Some children and teens with anxiety disorders may also feel excessively uncomfortable being in social situations (Social Anxiety) or when separating from a parent or loved one (Separation Anxiety). Other symptoms can include obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD), unexpected panic-inducing distress (Panic Disorder), or more generalized worrying about everyday activities (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). These five anxiety disorders are the most common; less common anxiety disorders include Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Selective Mutism, and Specific Phobias. Many children and adolescents have more than one type of anxiety disorder.

Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatment methods for childhood anxiety disorders, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, and components of mindfulness. Teaching parents and other family members strategies for helping kids and teens deal with anxious feelings is an important part of treatment. It helps to create a home environment that is supportive and engaged in the youth’s progress.

You can find more information about various treatment options by following the link to our Available Treatments page.