Diseases & Conditions
A feeling of apprehension, fear, or worry not connected to a speciﬁc threat. Many experts believe that anxiety is a learned response to stress. For example, a child who has been stung by a bee will run away crying on the next appearance of a ﬂying buzzing insect. Should the avoidance continue to be reinforced, the anxiety will continue and may develop into a PHOBIA.
Cognitive psychologists believe that anxiety is the result of inappropriate thoughts. For someone who has an irrational fear of snakes, a picture of a snake can cause anxiety even though it is not possible to be hurt by a two-dimensional picture.
Children with LEARNING DISABILITIES may often have accompanying problems with anxiety, especially in connection to school work. Reading aloud, taking timed tests, or trying to start a writing assignment all may trigger anxiety and cause even further problems with the required task. Someone experiencing a high level of anxiety may “freeze up” and ﬁnd it impossible to perform at all, or may show signs of restlessness and agitation, leading to erratic and inconsistent performance.
There is also a signiﬁcant link between attention deﬁcits and anxiety. To some degree, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two. An inability to focus and sustain attention may often lead to anxiety, and anxiety itself can make it very difﬁcult for a child to pay attention to a task. In some cases, attention deﬁcit disorders coexist with anxiety disorders.
It is also possible for someone with an anxiety disorder to be misdiagnosed with attention deﬁcit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In evaluating ADHD, a differential diagnosis for anxiety may be important. It is equally important that those who work with individuals with ADHD take into account the possibility that anxiety may underlie some expressions of learning, communication, and social difﬁculties. (See also ANXIETY DISORDERS.)