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Anxiety in Children & Teens
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) - 
What is it?
Separation fears are normal in children from around 7 months of age to the preschool years and typically dissipate spontaneously.  SAD often emerges when children are older and well past the age for normal separation fears.  

What to look for:
Signs to look for include extreme disproportionate distress over separation from loved ones, clinging, crying, tantrums in anticipation of separation to name a few.

Other anxiety disorders.

  • Specific Phobia - Unreasonable persistent fear of an identifiable object such as animals, medical procedures etc. 
  • Panic Attacks - repeated, unexpected, out of the blue panic attacks, dreaded anticipation of another attack, avoidance of perceived triggers or attacks, reluctance to go outside of the house due to fear of an attack

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder - uncontrollable worry over day-to-day events.  This is the "What if...[something bad happens]" disorder. 
  • Social Anxiety Disorder - intense fear of social and performance situations, avoidance of social situations
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - OCD involves intrusive thoughts called obessions that cause distress to the individual.  The individual often learns to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessions by performing specific rituals or compulsions. The most common obsessions (thoughts) in children and teens are fears of germs and contamination followed by fears of harm to self or others. Some common compulsions include cleaning/washing; repeating; touching/tapping; checking; counting; ordering/arranging - to name a few. 


​The Teenage Years & Anxiety
  • A large proportion of specific phobias begin in early to middle childhood, social phobia in early to mid adolescence, obsessive-compulsive disorder in mid to later adolescence, and panic disorder in early adulthood (Kessler et al. 2005, Ost 1987)
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy & or Acceptance and Commitment therapy are effective evidence based treaments for anxiety conditions
Importance of Early Screening of Anxiety with ASD.

It has long been recognised that anxiety is common in children with ASD with Kanner (1943) first describing the child with autism as anxious and uneasy in the presence of others. Since this time, the presence of anxiety disorders in children with HF-ASD has gained growing recognition, with the prevalence of anxiety in children with ASD approximately 45% when compared to 2.5% to 5% of typically developing children and adolescents. For this reason, it is essential that anxiety be screened and monitored in children with ASD and be considered an important part of their intervention. 

By Dr. Jenni Silva (Clinical Psychologist)

What is the Difference Between Anxiety & Autism?

Social delays or difficulty making friendships and maintaining friendships could also be related to anxiety.   There tends to be a certain degree of overlap with anxiety and autism spectrum conditions. As highlighted in the post above a large number of children with ASD also have high levels of anxiety. A child with anxiety may be less likely to join in and make friends, this could or may also be true for a child on the autism spectrum.  However, when assessing for an autism spectrum condition assessment goes beyond this. Screening for anxiety is essential as it would be a component of the intervention plan if present. 
When it comes to the autism spectrum we know that early intervention is related to best outcomes for children.

Early warning signs to look for include an absence of social smiling (i.e., does not return your smile), lack of shared enjoyment, preference for solitary play, or if play with others as he/she gets older may be only based on his or her agenda or have an immature quality, poor eye contact, absence of following the parent gaze,  lack or limited gestures (lack of nodding), poor listening response, repetitive motor movements (e.g., tapping, flapping, spinning, tapping) or difficulty with transitions and changes in routine, a need for sameness,  a special interest in rocks, or an unsual attachment to objects (such as a rock etc..), sensory sensitivies (e.g., loud noise, food, textures).  By Dr. Jenni Silva (Clinical Psychologist)

Treatment for Anxiety

We use evidence based psychological interventions that are developmentally appropriate to your child's age.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a short-term, focused approach that aims to bring about changes in a child’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours.