Anxiety disorders consist of a set of syndromes, ranging from very circumscribed conditions such as specific monophobias (e.g. a fear of spiders) to broad disorders characterized by free floating anxiety and general worry exemplified by the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder. According to DSM-IV there are eight major separate diagnostic categories with two specific to the childhood period: separation anxiety disorder and reactive attachment disorder. In contrast, ICD-10 denotes five anxiety syndromes specific to this period of life: separation anxiety; phobic anxiety; social anxiety; sibling rivalry disorder; and generalized anxiety disorder. ICD-10 prefaces the classification of anxiety disorders with a general introduction, indicating that these conditions are mainly exaggerations of normal developmental trends rather than phenomena that are qualitatively different and abnormal in themselves. Developmental appropriateness is a key diagnostic feature in defining the difference between these emotional disorders and the neurotic anxiety disorders of adulthood.
Overall, compared with DSM-IV, the ICD-10 classification places somewhat greater emphasis on the importance of a developmental onset for certain subtypes of anxiety syndromes that may have a distinct implication for aetiology and outcome. In contrast, as DSM-IV considers that previous categories of avoidant and overanxious disorder are not sufficiently developmentally different from their adult counterparts, these are subsumed under the categories of social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder. Thus because phobic, social, and general anxiety disorders have similar clinical characteristics across the lifespan they are treated as single disorders and classified only once.
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