Anxiety Disorders in Children

Anxiety disorders in children are more common when a child's parent/parents, or other family members suffer from an anxiety disorder. Dr. O'Connor, a Toronto psychologist, works with children who are showing symptoms of anxiety, and their families.

 Millions of people (an estimated 15 % of the population) suffer from an anxiety disorder. And many of these are parents raising children who are, in turn, at increased risk for developing an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders run in families, thereby increasing the risk that children of parents who suffer from an anxiety disorder will also show high levels of anxiety.

However, we can help prevent or ameliorate anxiety disorders in children. Research indicates this can happen when helping strategies are combined with family therapy. Dr. O'Connor also frequently recommends a Psychological Assessment to help uncover the multiple factors  that help contribute to and maintain the anxious behaviors in a child. We can then use this information to develop evidence based solutions to help the child.

Are you a parent or helping professional who is worried about anxiety disorders in children? Do you wonder if a child is at increased risk of developing a child anxiety disorder, or whether he or she currently suffers from one. Dr. O'Connor receives referrals from parents, mental helath professionals and physicians who are concerned about the possibility of an anxiety disorder in a child, and how to help.  A number of these referrals come from mental health professionals who are working with an anxious parent, who is also showing concerns about signs of anxiety in their child.

A Psychological Assessment Can Help

Dr. O'Connor offers various Psychological Assessment Services that she tailors to the specific needs of an anxious  child.

"Understanding the Problem is the Key to Solving It." The child assessment helps here. It increases understanding of the symptoms of anxiety that present in a particular child. This understanding leads to evidence based interventions to address these concerns in the child. A Psychological Assessment can increase understanding of anxiety disorders in children, and how to help.

You will also learn how a child is coping when a parent suffers from an anxiety disorder, and whether or not he or she is showing signs of anxiety, as well. Find out where things are going well and where you might need to intervene to help?

Assessing Anxiety Disorders in Children

Various standardized measures, informal screening tools, behavioral rating scales and informal measures, such as drawings and play based interviews are used to assess anxiety disorders in children. What measures or procedures are most appropriate depend on the child, and his or her individual needs. Not all of these measures will apply to each case. Some of those that are typically used  by Dr. O'Connor include:

  • Gathering Background Questionnaire: This includes information about a child, such as medical, developmental and family history. We also explore questions related to anxiety, both in the child and other family members. In addition, the parent  provides information about their child’s strengths and weaknesses, their  view of where things are working or going so well, and what kind of help they seek.

  • Informal/projective  measures such as art and play therapy, or picture telling techniques, are often incorporated into the clinical interview with the child. 
  • Various standardized behavioral/emotional rating scales: Numerous such measures exist. These are completed by the parent, the  teacher, or other adults, when requested and often the child.  
  • Specific Behavior Rating Scales that are designed to explore anxiety, in particular, or other psychological concerns such as ADHD, or depression. Both of these concerns are associated with anxiety.
  • Parenting questionnaires/rating scales to help explore the parent-child relationship.

Sometimes, it is important to incorporate neuropsychological assessment measures, as well as learning and academic measures, within the anxiety based assessment. Symptoms  of anxiety  often reflect brain/behavior relationships, and must be explored to help develop effective interventions to assist with anxiety related concerns. 

Similarly, anxiety can contribute to various neurocognitive weaknesses, for example, problems with executive control, as well as related problems, such difficulties with attention, concentration, and working memory.  These in turn inhibit the child's ability to learn and function effectivley at school. 

Final Steps

Following the assessment, Dr. O’Connor scores, interprets and summarizes the information gleaned from the various assessment procedures.

She then integrates this information into a comprehensive written summary report. This includes her interpretation and summary of the test findings and practical, effective solutions to help with anxiety disorders in children. These recommendations also include strategies to promote positive outcomes in children, and encourage healthy coping behaviors.

Recommendations will also integrate understanding of the child's strengths and "what works "  with a particular child.

Dr. O’Connor's report includes a summary of the child’s strengths and needs, an overview of Dr. O’Connor’s view of the problem, recommendations to address it and options for further exploration. If appropriate, she will also refer the child and/or his family to relevant resources that can provide further support and understanding about how to help the anxious child.

To find out more about Dr. O'Connor's services, and how they can help you, help an anxious child, click here

Read our case studies about children who suffer from an anxiety disorder. 

You can also ask Dr. O’Connor a question about anxiety disorders in children.

To learn more about child anxiety disorders, for example, treatment options and how to help, click here.

To learn about child anxiety and when it becomes a problem, or risk factors and causes, click here.

Order Dr. O’Connor’s book--I Can Be Me. Although this book focuses on children of alcoholic parents, you can easily adapt it to help children of anxious parents. Guidelines for doing so are included in the introduction.

To find out more about this book, click here.