When to Seek Professional Help for Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety in some form. Each of us have different situations or things that trigger an anxiety response (e.g. spiders, airplanes, giving a speech, wearing a bikini at the pool, etc.). For children and teens, it has become increasingly difficult to tell whether they have typical, healthy levels of anxiety or if they may meet criteria for a diagnosable (and treatable) anxiety disorder. Kids have access to information about mental health that most adults never had, pre-Google. While the term “anxiety” has become commonplace, it is important that we recognize developmentally appropriate anxiety versus excessive anxiety or fear.

So what is healthy anxiety, and what is an anxiety disorder? Healthy anxiety is the anxiety that we feel before meeting someone new, running for a leadership position, or trying out a zipline. It is the body’s natural reaction to doing something new, risky, or exciting. It can be difficult to differentiate a “normal” anxiety response from one that has become “disordered.” A crucial, guiding question to ask about your child’s anxiety is this: How much is anxiety getting in the way of their functioning? For instance, if your child becomes anxious when they meet new peers but they are able to have a few close and functional friendships, they may not have what is known as Social Anxiety Disorder. However, if they are anxious in social situations, and this keeps them from participating fully in class or engaging with peers, it may be time to seek a professional evaluation for an anxiety disorder. This is just one example which happens to be social in nature. There are a variety of anxiety disorders that we have split up into diagnostic categories.

Types of Anxiety Disorders:

  1. Social Anxiety Disorder
  2. Specific Phobia
  3. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  4. Separation Anxiety Disorder
  5. Panic Disorder
  6. Agoraphobia
  7. Selective Mutism
  8. Illness Anxiety Disorder

Although these are not classified as anxiety disorders, children with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder also experience higher levels of anxiety than their peers. In addition, children with depression often present with higher anxiety. It is important to receive a comprehensive diagnostic intake to determine if your child meets criteria for any of these diagnoses in order to determine the best course of treatment. 


Source: American Psychiatric Association, & American Psychiatric Association. (2013). DSM 5. American Psychiatric Association, 70.

By Jordan Levine, PsyD, Supervised by Misti Nicholson, PsyD

If you have any additional questions please contact us at 512-246-7225. If you are ready to get started, please visit our client portal.