Anxiety disorders seem to afflict humans very early, not sparing even tiny tots. Children as young as two are being treated for anxiety disorders in New South Wales in Australia.
Anxiety disorders in children are far more prevalent than depression, figures released by Macquarie University's Anxiety Research Unit show.
In children aged 6to 11, the anxiety prevalence rate is 16 per cent - compared to a rate of about 1 per cent for mood disorders such as depression.
In those aged 13 to 18 years, it is between 10 and 16 per cent - compared to 5 per cent for mood disorders.
Professor of psychology and director of the Centre for Emotional Health Ron Rapee said anxiety disorders could virtually cripple a child and stay with them for life.
'In very young children it really starts to look like part of their personality - they appear shy, withdrawn, upset if confronted with something new, scared more than most kids if their mother leaves the room or they are left alone,' Professor Rapee said.
'It's sad when you see it - particularly in really young children. It can be devastating.
'In many cases they don't have friends, they're too anxious to be able to sleep over at a friend's house and a lot of them can't join activities like school camps because of it. It really can affect their lives.'
Professor Rapee said a lack of confidence underlined many anxiety disorders in children.
The growing prevalence of anxiety disorders in increasingly younger children has prompted researchers at the unit to set up the Creating Confident Kids program for children aged two to six.
Whereas other programs offered at the unit treat the children - this program is aimed to teach parents how to help their children develop self-confidence, a healthy self-esteem and a sense of responsibility.
So far about 30 parents have taken part in the eight-week course since it began in November last year.
The programme, called Study Without Stress, has been developed for senior high school students. It teaches cognitive and behavioural skills to help students understand their stress, teaches them anxiety management skills, how to manage high workloads and exam anxiety, managing procrastination and perfectionism and creating a study-life balance.