The Long-Term Effects of Anxiety in Children

Anxiety is an emotion that you can expect to see in your child or teen. In fact, some anxiety is a good thing: it can help keep young people safe by getting them to think about the situation they’re in and the potential consequences or it can motivate them to do their best. However, some children experience anxiety at an abnormal rate. Children who are constantly anxious and worry so much that it interferes with their daily lives are experiencing an anxiety problem or disorder and this can have long-term effects, especially if it goes untreated.

Effects Can Occur Throughout Childhood

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Anxiety disorders often begin in childhood or adolescence, with rates between 5% and 10%. Undetected or untreated childhood anxiety disorders can have several negative long-term effects on a child’s life. For example, a child may fall behind in school due to a fear of asking for help or they may not form friendships due to social anxiety. These negative effects can take a toll on a child’s well-being and may cause their self-esteem to suffer.

Children and teens with an anxiety problem often experience negative physical side effects due to their anxiety. These side effects can include headaches, stomachaches, dizziness and a rapid heartbeat. These physical symptoms can interfere with the everyday lives of children and teens with anxiety, but will often disappear once the anxiety is treated.

Long-Term Effects May Last Into Adulthood

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Some long-term studies have shown that individuals who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder as a child have a higher risk of having the same disorder throughout adulthood. Furthermore, individuals who experienced an anxiety disorder in childhood have a higher risk of major depression, suicidal behavior and substance abuse, with the most common of these being depression. Other studies have found that those who were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in childhood are at a higher risk of experiencing early parenthood or underachievement at work.

These effects are more likely to occur if the anxiety went undetected or untreated for a long time, if the individual experienced panic attacks or was diagnosed with multiple anxiety disorders as a child.

Some types of anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, are chronic. Because chronic anxiety has no cure, children who were never treated for their anxiety will not have the coping skills and strategies that are needed as their anxiety waxes and wanes over the course of a lifetime.

Early Intervention is Key

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Early intervention is key when it comes to childhood anxiety. On top of reducing childhood anxiety, it reduces the risk factor of developing other anxieties and depression in adulthood. Many children with anxiety disorders who receive the appropriate treatment will experience a significant reduction or elimination of their anxiety and will not be as affected by it later in life.

There are various different long-term effects that may be experienced by children who suffer from anxiety. However, children who get the treatment and help they need are often able to lead normal lives and will have the coping skills that they need should they experience anxiety in adulthood.

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