Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in children with ASD and ADHD

Does your child frequently get irritated or anxious? Are you concerned by your child’s frequent tantrums or abrupt silence? Did your child frequently cry uncontrollably or wet the bed? These are some common signs of anxiety in kids. Approximately, 40% of kids with ASD and 60% of kids with ADHD are dealing with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). However, if your child’s anxiety disorder will start to negatively impact their wellness, they could require assistance. Keep reading to understand the causes, tips and foods to manage generalised anxiety disorder in children.

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Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalised Anxiety disorder can be characterised by persistent and unstoppable worrying about everyday events. It can usually coexist with ASD and ADHD and the symptoms may overlap. The percentage, severity, and length of anxiety can frequently interfere with daily activities. Children with generalised anxiety disorder may have more frequent anxiety about their studies (both school and college), career, finances, health, relationships etc. 

Also check, How to manage anxiety attacks in kids?

Symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder

In smaller kids, you may notice some signs like:

  • Frequently get irritated
  • Crying often and clingy nature
  • Wake up many times during night
  • Bed wetting
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Horrible or bad dreams
  • Throwing tantrums
  • Teeth grinding
  • Fear of separation 

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In bit older kids, you may notice some signs like:

  • Difficulty in focusing
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Poor eating habits 
  • Negativity of mind
  • Decreased confidence
  • Less socialisation
  • Tantrums /angry outbursts.
  • Restlessness
  • Excess sweating
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle tension
  • Migraine

Also check, Common behavioural disorders in kids

Causes of generalised anxiety Disorder

According to some study, kids with generalised anxiety disorder may have experienced childhood trauma or stressful incidents or when any of their family members have a history of anxiety. It may worsen during stressful situations. Generalised anxiety disorder typically develops at a younger age, and symptoms may appear more slowly than in most other anxiety disorders. 

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ASD, ADHD and Generalised anxiety disorder

However, these are separate conditions, the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder may usually overlap with symptoms of ASD and ADHD. 

Similarities between ASD and GAD

Anxiety is especially crucial to diagnose and manage in case of ASD because it has a significant impact on the focus and concentration, worsening social disengagement and repetitive behaviours. Furthermore, while untreated comorbid anxiety has been linked to the development of sadness, lack of confidence, low self-esteem, aggressiveness, and self-harm in ASD.

Similarities between ADHD and GAD

If ADHD and GAD coexist with each other, it can impair the capacity to concentrate and may also lead to behavioural issues including,

  • Hyperactivity
  • Inattentiveness
  • Lack of self-control
  • Restlessness
  • Not able to sit for a long time
  • Problem with organising things
  • Impulsive behaviour

Also check, Oppositional defiant disorder in kids

Treatments for managing generalised anxiety disorder


DBT is a kind of cognitive-behavioural therapy that seeks to alter behaviour by helping people acknowledge and embrace their emotions. It seeks to alter their behaviour by acknowledging and accepting their current emotions and providing tools that can help with regulating their emotions and improving tolerance and mindfulness. This cognitive behavioural therapy has been adapted to accommodate the unique needs of children. Its main goals are teaching coping mechanisms, identifying problematic thought patterns, and regulating intense emotions.

Also check, Benefits of behavioural therapies


Psychotherapy focuses on assisting kids by having conversations with them individually regarding how to express emotions and manage their anger and anxiety. It might enhance the kid’s self-worth and it can also help them to become skilled.

Also check, Therapies of Autism


Family counselling includes mom, dad, siblings and other family members to take part in the therapy session. It can aid in improving family communication and teaching parents some tactics for resolving conflicts with their children to make it safer in the family. In some cases, strengthening the bond between parents and children can also enhance family dynamics.

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To promote empathy in kids and teens, group therapy will help. Group therapy can be performed with the classmates or friends of your kid which might help your kid to develop their social and communication skills.

Also check, How to manage tantrums in kids?

Tips to manage anxiety disorder in kids


In the short run, children will feel better if you help them avoid the things they are nervous of, but in the long run, it will just make their anxiety worse.

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Helping children learn to tolerate their anxiety as best they can is the best method to help them overcome it. The anxiety will lessen with time.

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Don’t assure a youngster that what they fear won’t occur—that you are sure they won’t fail the test—but rather, reassure them that he/she will be able to handle whatever comes their way.

Also check, 8 Ways to manage hyperactivity in kids


Accepting feelings does not imply validating them. Therefore, if a child is afraid to visit the doctor, do listen to her and show empathy, but also give her the confidence to overcome her concerns.

Also check, ADHD in kids: Symptoms and Remedies


Avoid giving the impression that “maybe this is something you should be terrified of” through your tone of voice or body language.

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Remind your child that you are proud of how hard she is working and that his/her worry will lessen as she learns to manage it. 

Also check, Tips to improve concentration


The hardest part of facing our fears comes right before we act on them. For instance, don’t bring up a child’s anxiety about going to the doctor until you absolutely have to.


Talking through what would happen if a worry came true and how he/ she would handle it might be helpful at times. For some children, making a plan can lessen uncertainty in a positive, useful way.

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Allow children to hear or see you handling stress and anxiety in a calm manner while accepting it and feeling good about getting through it. Don’t pretend that you don’t suffer stress and worry.

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Foods that help to manage anxiety disorder in kids


All the nuts like almonds, cashew, peanuts and hazelnuts are rich in vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acid. Research has established a link between omega 3 fatty acids and brain development in early childhood. These healthy fats have amazing brain boosting power and play a vital role in enhancing memory and attention span.


Apart from nuts, seeds like sunflower, melon and pumpkins also contain powerful antioxidants like vitamin E that protect the brain from free radical damage. Sunflower seeds impact overall mood and mental processing powers and therefore it is considered a brain boosting snack. Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, copper, and much higher in zinc than other seeds, which help in increasing concentration and memory. One of the easiest to feed brain boosting foods for kids.



It is a small woody plant native to India and North Africa. Ashwagandha has a strong affinity for GABA receptors. As a result, Ashwagandha can be used to treat Autism symptoms such as sensory issues, memory loss, anxiety, and attention deficit.

Also check, More benefits of Ashwagandha


Brahmi is a brain superfood that is believed to sharpen the brain by protecting cells and increasing chemicals involved in learning and memory. It acts on the CNS, where it improves grasping power, eye contact, memory, intellect, and speech, as well as correcting sensory sensitivity, emotional, mood, and personality aberrations in an individual.

Also check, More benefits of Brahmi


In order to improve brain functioning, shankhapushpi is an old remedy. The powerful antioxidants and flavonoids present in it improve the memory capacity, focus, concentration, calmness, alertness of an individual. Since it is a brain tonic and stimulator, people taking shankhapushpi have improved autism features like sensory issues, memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities.

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Gotukola has strong anti-oxidant qualities and enhances cognition, memory, and mental performance. It gently relaxes the nervous system while also encouraging alertness—the best possible state of consciousness for any form of mental focus, study, or cognition.

Also, check 5 Ayurvedic herbs that are safe for kids


Spearmint extract has higher quantities of phenolic compounds that enhance working memory, spatial working memory and also increase attention, concentration, and brain function by promoting the formation and protection of new brain cells.


St John’s wort contains chemical messengers like Hyperforin and Adhyperforin. These chemicals have antidepressant properties. The extracts of this herb enhance mood, focus, and also reduce anxiety and insomnia. According to several studies, adolescents with ADHD may benefit from taking St. John’s wort every day for four weeks. It is also used to treat problems including anxiety, exhaustion, appetite loss, and difficulty sleeping that might occasionally accompany depression.


The chemicals in the passion flower provide a calming and relaxing effect. Early research indicates that taking passion flower orally for eight weeks may help some ADHD symptoms in kids aged 6 to 13 years.

Also, check What is Sensory Processing Disorder?


The herb valerian has relaxation properties. Additionally, it contains some anticonvulsant qualities that might be advantageous for kids who are prone to seizure activity. Children with ADHD, cognitive impairment, hyperactivity, irritability, anxiety, behavioural regulation, and neurodevelopmental abnormalities can benefit from valerian for improved attention and sleep.

Also check, Tips to manage sleep talking in kids


The most well-known essential oil for soothing is lavender. Lavender essential oil can be helpful for reducing anxiety and making you feel more at ease, which may help with ADHD symptoms. The aroma of lavender oil can calm and soothe the nervous system. Its relaxing qualities can benefit autistic children by enhancing their sleep quality and also assisting their bodies in combating emotional stress.

Also check, Brain development food for children


Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric is known to improve spatial memory, long-time retrieval and also visual memory as per a study. It helps in managing anxiety, depression etc which is commonly seen in people with ADHD disorder.

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Ginkgo biloba is a promising herbal supplement that may alter the neural system in a disorder similar to ADHD. It also helps in enhancing memory and cognitive performance. According to a study, Children who took a ginkgo extract daily for three to five weeks showed a decrease in the symptoms of ADHD.

Also check, Activities for brain development


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