Anxiety is a normal and necessary part of life. It's a natural response to stress that helps us navigate life's challenges. However, for some children, anxiety can become overwhelming and interfere with daily life.
In fact, anxiety is the most common mental health disorder among children and adolescents, affecting up to 25 percent of youth.
Anxiety disorders represent the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adolescents. Youths who suffer from anxiety disorders typically experience impairment in social, family, and educational domains of functioning. - National Library of Medicine
That's why a panel of U.S. health experts has recommended anxiety screening for all youth ages 8 and up.
The recommendation was made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts that makes evidence-based recommendations on preventive health care.
The panel's recommendation is based on a review of the latest research on anxiety screening and treatment for children and adolescents.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) today posted final recommendation statements on screening for anxiety in children and adolescents and screening for depression and suicide risk in children and adolescents. The Task Force recommends screening children 12 and older for depression and, for the first time, is recommending screening children ages 8 and older for anxiety.
The panel found that anxiety screening is an effective way to identify children who may be at risk for anxiety disorders. Screening involves asking a few simple questions to identify symptoms of anxiety, such as excessive worry or fear, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches. The screening is quick and non-invasive and can be done in a doctor's office or at school.
The panel also found that early identification and treatment of anxiety can prevent more serious mental health problems down the line. Anxiety that goes untreated can lead to depression, substance abuse, and other mental health issues.
By identifying anxiety early, healthcare providers can provide targeted interventions to help children manage their symptoms and prevent more serious problems from developing.
In addition to anxiety screening, the panel also renewed their recommendation of screening teens for suicidal thoughts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth, and screening is an important way to identify youth who may be at risk. Suicide screening involves asking a few simple questions to identify if a teen has suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Like anxiety screening, suicide screening is quick and non-invasive, and can be done in a doctor's office or at school.
Effective Treatments for Anxiety in Children and Adolescents
There are a number of effective treatments for anxiety in children and adolescents. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment for anxiety and involves helping children identify and challenge their anxious thoughts and behaviors.
Medication can also be used to treat anxiety in some cases, although it's typically used as a last resort.
In addition to treatment, there are a number of things parents can do to help their child manage anxiety. One of the most important things parents can do is to create a supportive and nurturing home environment. This includes setting clear expectations and rules, providing plenty of positive feedback and encouragement, and being available to listen and offer support.
Parents can also help their child develop healthy coping skills, such as exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques. Encouraging regular exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep hygiene can also help children manage anxiety.
A Word from Wellnite
The bottom line is that anxiety screening for children and adolescents is an important way to identify and treat anxiety early before it becomes a more serious problem. If you're a parent, talk to your child's healthcare provider about anxiety screening and how you can help support your child's mental health.
And if you're a healthcare provider, be sure to include anxiety screening in your routine well-child visits. Together, we can help ensure that every child has the opportunity to grow up happy and healthy.
If you are a parent concerned about your child's anxiety, or a healthcare provider interested in anxiety screening, consider booking a session with one of our mental health coaches to learn more about anxiety and how to support your child's mental health.
Related: The Art of Mindful Living