Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 August 2009
The anxiety disorders constitute a broad spectrum of syndromes ranging from very circumscribed anxiety to pervasive, sometimes ‘free-floating’ anxiety or worry. As such, they are the most common group of psychiatric illnesses in children and adolescents (as well as adults). With the most recent editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV; APA, 1994) and, similarly, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10; WHO, 1992), the symptoms of children, adolescents and adults can be categorized by eight major but separate diagnostic syndromes associated with anxiety: panic disorder with agoraphobia, panic disorder without agoraphobia, agoraphobia without history of panic, specific phobia, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
Additionally, the DSM-IV and ICD-10 specify one anxiety disorder specific only to childhood: separation anxiety disorder. Earlier versions of the DSM included two additional anxiety diagnoses specific to childhood, namely avoidant disorder and overanxious disorder. In the most recent revision, however, avoidant disorder and overanxious disorder have been subsumed under the categories of social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder, respectively. Considerable evidence suggests that avoidant disorder and overanxious disorder are not distinct syndromes nor sufficiently different from their adult counterparts to merit separate diagnostic categories. For example, it has been shown that children and adolescents with avoidant disorder are no different from those with social phobia on a variety of sociodemographic variables including race, socioeconomic status or age at intake.