Anxiety Disorders in Children

Anxiety Disorders in Children

Anxiety disorders in children present in different ways. Some young people show elevated levels of worries and fears, timidity about separating from parents and elevated levels of anxiety related to social situations and worries about how they will be judged and perceived by others. Anxious children may also show high levels of physiological arousal, including problems with concentration, paying attention and sitting still. 

Young people whose parent/parents, or other family members suffer from an anxiety disorder are at increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder, when compared to children whose parents do not suffer from an anxiety disorder. 

Dr. O'Connor, a Toronto psychologist, provides psychological testing services for young people who are showing symptoms of anxiety. The goal of her psychological testing services is to get to "the root of the problem" and what is contributing to and maintaining it. The assessment is also part of the solution and leads to evidence based interventions to address the anxiety symptoms in the young person. 

Millions of people (an estimated 15 % of the population) suffer from an anxiety disorder. And many of these are parents raising children who are, in turn, at increased risk for developing an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders run in families, thereby increasing the risk that children of parents who suffer from an anxiety disorder will also show high levels of anxiety.

A psychological assessment can help "get to the root "of the anxiety symptoms that present in a young person, and lead to evidence based interventions to address these concerns. Preventative strategies within the family can also help.   Research indicates that positive psychological outcomes can result when helping strategies to assist the child are combined with family therapy.

Are you a parent or helping professional who is worried about anxiety disorders in children?

Do you wonder if a young person is at increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder, or whether he or she currently suffers from one. Dr. O'Connor receives referrals from parents, mental health professionals and physicians who are concerned about anxiety disorders in children, and how to help.  A number of these referrals come from mental health professionals who are working with an anxious parent, who is also showing concerns about signs of anxiety in their child.

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Psychological Testing Can Help

Dr. O'Connor offers Psychological Testing Services including school neuropsychological testing, that she tailors to the specific needs of an anxious  child.

"Understanding the Problem is the Key to Solving It."

Psychological testing  increases understanding of the symptoms of anxiety that present in a particular child, and what is contributing to and maintaining them. This understanding leads to evidence based interventions to address these concerns in the child. Psychological Testing also increases understanding of anxiety disorders in children, and how to help.

Psychological Testing explores how a child is coping when a parent suffers from an anxiety disorder, and whether or not he or she is showing signs of anxiety, as well. Find out where things are going well and where you might need to intervene to help?

Psychological Testing for Anxiety Disorders in Children

Various standardized measures, informal screening tools, behavioral rating scales and informal measures, such as drawings and play based interviews are used to assess anxiety disorders in children. What measures or procedures are most appropriate depend on the child, and his or her individual needs. Not all of these measures will apply to each case. Some of those that are typically used  by Dr. O'Connor include:

  • Gathering Background Information: This includes information about a young person, such as medical, developmental and family history. Dr. O'Connor also explores questions related to anxiety, both in the child and other family members. In addition, the parent  provides information about their child’s strengths and weaknesses, their  view of where things are working or going well, and what kind of help they seek.

  • Informal/projective  measures such as art and play therapy, or picture telling techniques, are often incorporated into the clinical interview with the child. 
  • Various standardized behavioral/emotional rating scales: Numerous such measures may be  completed by the parent, the  teacher, or other adults, when requested, and often the young person.  
  • Specific Behavior Rating Scales that are designed to explore anxiety, in particular, or other psychological concerns such as ADHD, or depression. Both of these concerns are associated with anxiety.
  • Parenting questionnaires/rating scales to help explore the parent-child relationship when appropriate.

School Neuropsychological testing components frequently inform the assessment as well, as do neurocognitive, learning and academic measures. Elevated levels of Anxiety can contribute to learning problems or be the result of them. Similarly, elevated levels of anxiety can contribute to various neurocognitive weaknesses, for example, problems with executive control, as well as difficulties with attention, concentration, and working memory.  These in turn inhibit the child's ability to learn and function effectively at school. 

Following the assessment, Dr. O’Connor scores, interprets and summarizes the information gleaned from the various assessment procedures.

She then integrates this information into a comprehensive written report. This report includes her interpretation and summary of the test findings and practical, effective solutions to help with anxiety disorders in children. These recommendations also include strategies to promote positive outcomes in children, and encourage healthy coping behaviors.

Recommendations will also integrate understanding of the child's strengths and "what works "  with a particular child.

Dr. O’Connor's report includes a summary of the child’s strengths and needs, an overview of Dr. O’Connor’s view of the problem, recommendations to address it and options for further exploration. If appropriate, she will also refer the child and/or his family to relevant resources that can provide further support and understanding about how to help the anxious child.

To learn about child anxiety and when it becomes a problem, or its risk factors and causes, click here.

Order Dr. O’Connor’s book--"I Can Be Me. Although this book focuses on children of alcoholic parents, you can easily adapt it to help children of anxious parents. Guidelines for building resilience and healthy coping skills are included in the introduction and thrughout the book.

To find out more about this book, click here.

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