LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Research from the nonprofit group Child Mind Institute, which is dedicated to helping children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders, says more than 30% of kids and adolescents will meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder at some point in their childhood.

Clinical psychologists say the median age of onset for an anxiety disorder is six-years-old.

At that age, separation anxiety is more common, as well as selective mutism where children are scared to speak in certain contexts.

A general anxiety disorder is more common in older children. It’s characterized by chronic worries about everyday things, like: “Is it going to rain today?” “Will I miss the bus?” Is my homework perfect enough?”

Psychologists say you’ll know it’s not normal behavior when children are afraid of things that are generally safe and when their worries prevent them from living their lives.

“With anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder, it will cause things like difficulty sleeping, headaches, stomach aches, those intense chronic worries start to take a toll and they really interfere with people being able to get out in the world and do things,” said Child Mind Institute Clinical Psychologist Jamie Howard.

“So I’ll work with kids who need their homework to be perfect so they will spend three hours writing out an assignment, that’s extreme. That’s taking way too long, they’re crying, they’re tired, they have so much more work to do,” Howard said.

That’s when you’ll know that professional help might be beneficial for your child, which psychologists say can be a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.

You might be wondering at six, seven, or eight-years-old, where does this anxiety come from? Experts say it’s a combination of genetics and the child’s environment. Some kids grow up in a more stressful environment.

Research shows by adolescence girls are two times more likely to have an anxiety disorder than boys.

The Child Mind Institute says it would like to see pediatricians screen children on their yearly checkups.
It’s as simple as asking a few questions. Experts say the earlier you can intervene with an anxiety disorder, the better.