Anxiety in Children

Everyone experiences anxiety, including children. Most times it's temporary, and children can cope or be comforted and experience relief. In some cases, anxiety may be characterized by excessive fear, nervousness, or shyness that impairs functioning to the point of avoiding places and activities. Some children may also experience persistent physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach pains. If your child is exhibiting extreme worry that is interfering with normal life and functioning, Duke's behavioral health team can help your child learn to cope effectively with anxiety.

How We Can Help Your Child

There are many effective treatments for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. Our team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and nurses provides compassionate, evidence-based treatment in an environment designed to help your child feel safe and comfortable. We conduct all evaluations and treatment with great sensitivity and respect for the unique needs of your child and your family.

Our anxiety experts have been involved in the study of childhood anxiety for many years. We keep pace with -- and often lead -- new studies and developments in the treatment of anxiety.

For children who have serious or chronic physical illnesses, we have teams of specialists both in the hospital and in our outpatient clinics who are sensitive to the strain these illnesses can cause. They can help your child overcome anxiety related to their illness or medical treatment.

Common Signs of Anxiety

If you're concerned about your child’s behavior, don’t hesitate to contact us for help. Children often outgrow these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors on their own, but if they persist or create disruption in your family life, we can help find solutions.

Signs of anxiety can appear at any age, and may include:

  • Extreme discomfort or fear of sleeping alone, going to school, having a new babysitter, going to birthday parties or on play dates, or participating in after-school programs. We can evaluate whether treatment might help your child manage these fears.
  • Painful shyness with peers (although not with parents or siblings), fear of giving oral reports, lacking friends of the same age, or refusal to play sports for fear of someone laughing at his or her performance. This type of anxiety -- called social anxiety -- most often appears around school age, and teachers are often a good resource for recognizing when this may be present. Our team can work with your child to identify strategies to help your child increase their confidence and comfort interacting with peers.
  • Intense worry on a range of issues, from a parent’s health or financial situation to severe weather, to getting admitted to college. We can help manage the constant worry associated with generalized anxiety that can lead to poor sleep, irritability, and problems with concentration.


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