Anxiety Disorders and How They Are Treated


There is no single cause of anxiety disorders. The development of an anxiety disorder typically results from an interaction between certain biological and environmental risk factors that are unique to each individual. Genetics play an important role in determining who will develop an anxiety disorder, as does a child’s temperament, or innate personality style. Studies show, for example, that children who are innately cautious, quiet, and shy are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder. Environmental risk factors, such as parenting style, combine with the biological risk factors of genetics and temperament to make a child more or less predisposed toward developing an anxiety disorder.


There is not one single treatment for children and adolescents with anxiety disorders. A clinician will formulate a treatment plan that is individualized to the needs of each child and family.

Psychotherapy is the first-line treatment for anxiety disorders of mild severity. One widely used, evidence-based form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

When a child’s anxiety symptoms are severe, or when a child has responded only partially to psychotherapy, adding medication may be helpful. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first line medications used to treat children with anxiety disorders. Parents should discuss the risks and benefits of these medications with their child’s clinician.

Reprinted with permission from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, All Rights Reserved ,2015

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