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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a type of anxiety that involves chronic worry accompanied by a wide range of bodily sensations, muscle aches, insomnia, headaches, stomachaches, feeling tired or mildly ill, or feeling chronically restless and irritable. It is also important to note that children with GAD often have feelings of depression that accompany their worries. For those children who experience this type of worry, they often believe that it is adaptive in that it keeps them and their loved ones safe. Children with GAD might also have strong perfectionist tendencies and believe that their anxiety keeps them performing at a high-level in school. Reassurance seeking is a hallmark of GAD. It involves frequently seeking reassurance for worries with hopes that it will resolve the worry. This can be quite frustrating to those with GAD because they feel that they are frequently sought out to ease the same concerns.

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Successful treatment of GAD includes cognitive therapy to learn to tolerate uncertainty, effectively solve problems, and decrease perfectionism. Exposure therapy and imaginal flooding helps the child learn to face their uncertainty directly by incrementally testing whether or not their feared outcome is as likely or as serious as they perceive it to be. If chronic physical arousal makes it impossible for a child to relax, then relaxation training and mindfulness training will be taught to help restore the body’s normal resting state. Referral for yoga and massage therapy may be especially helpful for children whose bodies are chronically sore from the chronic anxious hyperarousal associated with worry.

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