Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Pre-teens: Signs and Symptoms

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

While it is normal to experience some amount of anxiety or fear over new situations, it is possible for fear and anxiety to become excessive. When anxiety interferes with daily life and makes it difficult for a person to function normally, an anxiety disorder may be to blame. Generalized Anxiety Disorder may first show signs in childhood or the pre-teen years and negatively impact the life of a child. According to, anxiety disorders can result in difficulties in school and social relationships, alcohol or drug abuse, trouble in the workforce and anxiety disorders as an adult. For this reason, it is important for parents and adults to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in pre-teens so a child suffering from the disorder can receive prompt, professional treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

Pre-teens with Generalized Anxiety Disorder suffer from severe worry. This worry may focus on future events, past behaviors, family issues or school and personal performance according to the Children’s Hospital Boston website. Though a pre-teens worries caused by Generalized Anxiety Disorder are excessive and do not match the reality of the situation, pre-teens do not realize this. According to, because pre-teens do not realize that the worries are excessive, it is up to adults to recognize the symptoms and get help for Generalized Anxiety Disorder in pre-teens. advises parents to watch for signs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in pre-teens that include an inability to relax, easy to startle, trouble focusing and difficulty sleeping. In addition, parents should pay attention to physical symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle tension and aches, trembling, twitching, nausea, light-headedness, difficulty breathing or an increased need to use the bathroom. Further, pre-teens suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder may have trouble finishing tasks, such as homework, or organizing thoughts.


The exact cause of anxiety disorders is not known. However, biological, family and environmental factors are believed to play a role in the development of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in pre-teens and in adults. An imbalance of norepinephrine and serotonin, two chemicals in the brain, is believed to play a role in the development of Generalized Anxiety Disorder according to the Children’s Hospital Boston. It is possible that children may inherit this imbalance from parents, which gives a child an increased tendency to become anxious. Genetic predisposition alone, however, cannot entirely explain the development of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Anxiety and fear may be a learned behavior, passed onto children who observe parents or others close adults exhibiting anxious or fearful behaviors. If a child witnesses a parent displaying fear of new situations, avoiding others or worrying excessively, the child has an increased likelihood of developing the same fears and anxiety. Though learning behaviors from parents or other close adults is a possible cause of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in pre-teens, it is also possible that other environmental factors contribute to the development of anxiety. A traumatic event, for example, may cause lasting anxiety.

References Anxiety Disorders

Children’s Hospital Boston: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety Disorders Association of America: Childhood Anxiety Disorders