It's normal to feel anxious from time to time when faced with a stressful or unknown situation. However, prolonged anxiety is not normal. Anxious children worry excessively about punctuality, catastrophic events, and performance at school or sporting events. They are perfectionists, often redoing tasks they don't consider perfect. Anxious youth tend to lack confidence and strive for approval and reassurance.

About one in five young adults experience some form of anxiety. Left untreated, anxiety can lead to depression, substance abuse, and poor academic performance. Furthermore, anxious children experience significantly more lifetime negative events.

You may suspect that those who face poverty and hardship are more likely to be anxious than those who are more economically secure. In fact, research demonstrates that that anxiety is actually greater in children from a higher socioeconomic status, and the rate of anxiety in children and young adults is higher now than during the Great Depression. This is likely due to the unrealistic expectations today's parents and society establish, and our current culture--which unrealistically emphasizes wealth, looks and status.

Anxiety and depression are strongly related, although each is a distinct disorder. In a December 2009 Journal of Pediatrics study, researchers found that 13 percent of children studied had one of six mental disorders, including anxiety, and almost two percent had more than one disorder. Of those, .7 percent had an anxiety disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder affects almost seven million Americans. It's marked by exaggerated worry or tension that last six months or longer. It can start at any age, although children and adults through middle age are at highest risk. Anxious people can't relax or concentrate and startle easily. They have trouble falling or staying asleep and may experience fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, trembling, irritability and lightheadedness.

Genetics may play a role in anxiety disorders. Children of parents diagnosed with anxiety are up to seven times more likely to develop anxiety disorders, and almost two-thirds of children living with an anxious adult meet the criteria for anxiety disorder. Cognitive family therapy can minimize psychological damage from anxiety.

Anxiety significantly decreases quality of life and puts individuals at increased risk for depression, substance abuse, asthma, digestive disorders and heart disease. If you suspect your child is anxious, see a physician right away so he or she can begin treatment.