The Impact of Anxiety Disorders on Children and Adoloscents
Anxiety disorders also lead to impairment or disability in occupational, social, or interpersonal functioning.
Although these phenomena might be acutely distressing, they occur in most children and are typically transient. For example, separation anxiety normatively occurs at 12 to 18 months, fears of thunder or lightning at 2 to 4 years, and so forth. Thus, given that such anxiety occurs in most children and typically does not persist, distress, in and of itself, represents an inadequate criterion for distinguishing among normal and pathological anxiety states in children.
This, until recently, resulted in fines given to parents/carers of these children. The term school refusal has been used to refer to the group of children who are reluctant to or fail to attend school for emotional reasons (Thambirajah et al, 2008). Thambirajah et al, (2008) clarifies the different terms used to describe different groups of children who fail to attend school, these terms are based around the core characteristics as they are currently understood by authorities and researchers and include; truancy, parentally condoned absence, school phobia, separation anxiety and school refusal. Official figures do not take school refusal into account and therefore there are no official estimates of the extent of the problem. As well as this it is hard for professionals and teachers to be aware of the problem this is due to; lack of awareness of the extent and impact of school refusal, difficulties in distinguishing school refusal from other groups, invisibility of these children, excluding medical conditions, blaming parents. Kahn and Nursten (1968) also provide an in depth analysis of the psychosocial problems that can lead to school refusal.
In essence, although social anxiety can have a crippling effect on one’s life, it is essential to recognise that there are methods to overcome such phobic response – Whether you’re a parent, caregiver, peer or a member of a community, promoting social environments that are individually considerate and personally empowering are powerful ways of weaning child and adolescent sufferers away from detrimental behavior that interferes with their ability to be functioning and effective members of our society.
Goodman, R., Scott, S. (2012) Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Wiley & Sons: Chichester
Kahn, J., Nursten, J. (1968) Unwillingly to School, school phobia or school refusal, a medico-social problem, Pergamon Press: Oxford
Sewell, J. (2008) School Refusal, Australian Family Physician, Vol. 37, No. 4, PP 406-408
Thambirajah, M., Grandison, K., De-Hayes, L. (2008) Understanding school refusal: A handbook for professionals in education, health and social care, Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London