Background: Fearful and anxious behaviour is especially common in children, when they come across new situations and experiences. The difference between normal worry and an anxiety disorder is in the severity and in the interference with everyday life and normal developmental steps. Many longitudinal studies in children suggest that anxiety disorders are relatively stable over time and predict anxiety and depressive disorders in adolescence and adulthood. For this reason, the early diagnostic and treatment are needed.
Researchers supposed that anxiety is a result of repeated stress. Additionally, some genetic, neurobiological, developmental factors are also involved in the aetiology.
Methods and subjects: The aim of this article is to summarize and to present our own results obtained with the assessment and treatment of different forms of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents such as: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Dental anxiety, General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Anxious-phobic syndrome. Some results are published separately in different journals.
a) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 10 young children aged 9 ± 2, 05 y. is evaluated and discussed concerning the attachment quality.
b) The group with OCD comprises 20 patients, mean age 14,5 ± 2,2 years, evaluated with Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ), Child behaviour Checklist (CBCL), K-SADS (Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School age children), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), SCWT (Stroop Colour Word task), WCST (Wisconsin Card Scoring test).
c) Dental stress is evaluated in a group of 50 patients; mean age for girls 11,4 ± 2,4 years; for boys 10,7 ± 2,6 years, evaluated with (General Anxiety Scale (GASC), and Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ).
d) Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) profiles obtained for General Anxiety Disorder in 20 young females and 15 males aged 25,7± 5,35 years, and a group with Panic attack syndrome N=15 aged 19,3±4,9 years are presented and discussed by comparison of the results for healthy people.
e) Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was applied for assessment and treatment in 15 anxious-phobic patients, mean age 12, 5±2,25 years and results are compared with other groups of mental disorder.
Results: Children with PTSD showed a high level of anxiety and stress, somatization and behavioural problems (aggression, impulsivity, non-obedience and nightmares), complemented by hypersensitive and depressed mothers and misattachment in the early period of infancy. Consequently, the explanation of the early predisposition to PTSD was related to be the non-developed Right Orbital Cortex. The later resulted from insecure attachment confirmed in all examined children.
The obtained neuropsychological profile of children with OCD confirmed a clear presence of obsessions and compulsions, average intellectual capacities, but the absence of depressive symptoms. Executive functions were investigated through Event Related Potentials on Go/NoGo tasks. Results showed that no significant clinical manifestations of cognitive dysfunction among children with OCD in the early stage of the disorder are present, but it could be expected to be appearing in the later stage of the disorder if it is no treated.
In a study of 50 children randomly selected, two psychometric instruments were applied for measuring general anxiety and personal characteristics. It was confirmed that there was presence of significant anxiety level (evaluated with GASC) among children undergoing dental intervention. The difference in anxiety scores between girls and boys was also confirmed (girls having higher scores for anxiety). Results obtained with EPQ showed low psychopathological traits, moderate extraversion and neuroticism, but accentuated insincerity (L scale). L scales are lower by increasing of age, but P scores rise with age, which can be related to puberty. No correlation was found between personality traits and anxiety except for neuroticism, which is positively correlated with the level of anxiety.
The obtained profiles for MMPI-201 in a group of patients with general anxiety are presented as a figure. Females showed only Hy peak, but in the normal range. However, statistics confirmed significant difference between scores in anxiety group and control (t= 2, 25164; p= 0, 038749). Males showed Hs-Hy-Pt peaks with higher (pathological) scores, related to hypersensitivity of the autonomic nervous system, as well as with manifested anxiety. Calculation confirmed significant difference between control and anxiety in men (t= 15.13, p=0.000).
Additionally, MMPI profiles for patients with attack panic syndrome are also presented as a figure. Control scales for females showed typical V form (scales 1 and 3) related to conversing tendencies. In addition, females showed peaks on Pt-Sc scales, but in normal ranges. Pathological profile is obtained in males, with Hy-Sc peaks; this profile corresponds to persons with regressive characteristics, emotionally instable and with accentuated social withdraw.
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the beat to beat variability in heart rate, related to the work of autonomic nervous system. It may serve as a psychophysiological indicator for arousal, emotional state and stress level. We used HRV in both, the assessment and biofeedback training, in a group of anxious-phobic and obsessive-compulsive school children. Results obtained with Eysenck Personality Questionnaire showed significantly higher psychopathological traits, higher neuroticism and lower lie scores. After 15 session HRV training very satisfying results for diminishing stress and anxiety were obtained.