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Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Childhood Anxiety Disorders - Symptoms

Anxiety symptoms will vary across the different anxiety disorders in terms of the types of situations or things that are feared. The symptoms typically last for at least 6 months but this duration may be shorter for very young children (e.g., approximately one month for separation anxiety and two months for selective mutism). In very young children, associated features may include tantrums where a child shows anger and aggression in response to the anxiety (i.e., the ‘fight’ aspect of ‘fight or flight’). Other associated features include withdrawal, sadness, difficulties concentrating on work or play, and frequent reassurance-seeking.

Separation anxiety disorder:

  • Distress when separation occurs or is anticipated
  • Fear or reluctance to be alone, clings to parent, or follows parent around the house
  • Reluctance or refusal to go to school or elsewhere
  • Complaints of physical symptoms when separation occurs or is anticipated
  • Reluctance or refusal to go to sleep alone or sleep when away from home
  • Nightmares with a separation theme
  • Worries about harm happening to self or caregivers, including fear of dying

Selective Mutism:

  • Consistent failure to speak in social situations where there is an expectation to speak (e.g., school) even though the individual speaks in other situations (e.g., home)


  • Animals
  • Natural environments (e.g., height, thunderstorm)
  • Blood/Injection/Injury
  • Situational (e.g., being in an aeroplane or a lift)

Social anxiety disorder:

  • Has fear of and/or avoids participating in group activities
  • Has fear of and/or avoids going to a party or social event
  • Has fear of and/or avoids talking with a stranger, on the phone, or in front of a group
  • Reluctant or refuses to write in front of other people, eat in public, or use a public bathroom


  • Fear and worries about using public transportation, being in open spaces or in enclosed places, standing in line or being in a crowd, or being alone outside of the home
  • Fear and worries about inability to escape or get help in the event that they panic, or experience other incapacity or embarrassing symptoms

Generalised anxiety disorder:

  • Excessive worry about every day or real-life problems
  • Restlessness or feeling keyed-up or on edge
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension or non-specific tension
  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Sleep disturbance, especially difficulty falling asleep
  • Dread or fearful anticipation (non-specific)

Childhood Anxiety Disorders - Preparing for surgery

Childhood Anxiety Disorders - Post-surgery care

Childhood Anxiety Disorders - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth