Children's Hospital Colorado
Mental Health

Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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What is anxiety?

Anxiety is our body's reaction to perceived danger or important events. It is like an internal alarm system that alerts us to danger and helps our body prepare to deal with it.

We all experience anxiety from time to time, and children are likely to experience certain fears at particular stages of their lives, such as fears of separating from parents in infancy or self-consciousness during the teenage years. This is a normal part of growing up. But sometimes, fears and worrying can reach a point where they start to cause a problem. For example, your child may become upset or distressed, stop doing things that he or she enjoys, and/or be affected academically, socially or in athletic pursuits.

When anxiety begins to negatively affect your child's life, parents can turn to the Pediatric Mental Health Institute at Children's Hospital Colorado. We diagnose and treat children and teenagers with a full range of anxiety disorders, including but not limited to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism and panic disorder, as well as obsessive-compulsive (OCD) and related disorders.

What causes anxiety disorders?

No one fully knows what causes anxiety disorders, but research has identified a number of factors that we think play a role. These include genetics, environmental stressors such as the death of a loved one, being bullied at school, difficulties with academics, getting sick, parental separation, family violence and specific incidents (e.g., being in a car accident, being burgled and being bitten or stung), as well as parents' reactions to children's anxiety and the ways those around the child cope with stressful situations.

Who gets an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychological problem found in children and adolescents, affecting one in 10 youth at high enough levels to warrant a diagnosis. Anxiety disorders run in families, and children with anxiety are likely to have siblings or parents who also suffer from excessive anxiety.

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Get to know our pediatric experts.

Lauren Gallanis, PhD

Lauren Gallanis, PhD

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Jacob Holzman, PhD

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Jessica Kenny, PhD

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Zuzanna Wojcieszak, PhD

Zuzanna Wojcieszak, PhD

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