Diagnosing Kids' Anxiety Not So Cut and Dried, experts say

Parents watch their children and know something is wrong, but many North Jersey families find it can take a long time and many doctors' appointments to be told the issue is anxiety.

Even though anxiety disorders are the most prevalent psychiatric illness among children and adolescents - affecting as many as one in four - diagnosing it can be difficult.

"It's often difficult to accurately assess anxiety disorders because anxious children and adolescents may be reluctant to disclose the fearful thoughts and experiences they have, and they have less observable (physical) signs of distress than say, impulsive or distractible problems," psychologist Brian Chu, who runs the Youth Anxiety and Depression Clinic at Rutgers, wrote in an email. "There may also be some additional stigma to labeling boys as anxious, and so, we may see more girls willing to express their anxiety than boys."

A child can have more than one condition at a time (co-morbidity), symptoms can mimic other disorders, school personnel and pediatricians might think the parents are overreacting or specialists disagree for a variety of reasons, experts say.

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