Generalized Anxiety Disorder: What to Look For

A child might have GAD if she worries incessantly about everything, but particularly over her own performance in school or other activities, or her ability to meet expectations. Children with GAD tend to seek reassurance in an attempt to assuage their fears and worries (Will we get there on time? What if I can’t fall asleep the night before the test?). Their anxiety can make them rigid, even irritable and restless. The stress they experience can lead to physical symptoms, including fatigue, stomachaches, and headaches.

The anxious thoughts of a child with GAD are exaggerated but they tend to focus on tangible, real-life issues. Unlike social anxiety disorder, they’re focused on her own perfectionism rather than what others will think of her. And unlike in adults with GAD, who realize that their pervasive anxiety is not an appropriate response to their actual situation, children with GAD may not immediately recognize that their fears are outsized. It should also be noted that many of the symptoms of GAD are also symptoms of other, more specific anxiety disorders, and differentiating them can be difficult.