Watch Desiree Shapiro, MD's interview on KPBS on Children and Anxiety

December 14, 2015

Stress about grades, worry about fitting in, and nervousness about new situations — feeling a little anxious can be a normal part of childhood.

But when anxiety becomes too much, it can have a big impact on a child's day to day life, experts said.

The Anxiety and Depressions Association of America says anxiety disorders now affect about one in eight children in the United States.

Anxiety can run in the family, and new research shows it can be prevented in children whose parents suffer from an anxiety disorder.

"We know that anxiety runs in families," Desiree Shapiro, a psychiatrist with Rady Children's Hospital, told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. "If mom has anxiety, there's a higher likelihood that the child has anxiety. It's genetic, as well as, how you're raised and what kind of environment you're in."

But today's fast-paced world may also contribute to anxiety, said San Diego-based family therapist David Peters.

"Kids are over-scheduled," Peters said. "With being rushed around and having less time to relax and play, kids can have anxiety as a result."

Peters and Shapiro encouraged parents to take notice of behavior changes.

"Children often don't know how to express (anxiety) so they'll have stomachaches or headaches," Peters said.

Children suffering from anxiety can also have short tempers, be shy or be quiet, the doctors said.



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