What you need to know

March 2, 2023

We all know the feeling…Your heart starts racing. Your palms start getting sweaty. You feel like your legs may just not be able to hold you up any longer. Yes, this is the all too familiar moment of anxiety. 

The truth is that anxiety is part of our emotions for a reason. It helps us to prepare and flee from a problem that may put us in danger. It helps to recognize when a place, person or setting may not be good for us. But what happens when these feelings become overwhelming? What happens when you feel like you can not control these emotions and instead you feel like they are controlling you? 

Statistics show that 1 in 12 of our youth is experiencing some form of anxiety disorder. It is important also to realize that many of these people not only experience generalized anxiety disorder but oftentimes social anxiety  and separation anxiety as well. 

It is not uncommon for a patient to come in complaining of anxiety. Firstly, it is important to understand what exactly the person means by anxiety. Each person is unique and can experience anxiety differently. The more important thing is how this anxiety is affecting their day to day life. 

So if you have a child that you suspect is suffering from anxiety, the first thing you should ask yourself is how it is affecting their life. Are they avoiding situations because of their anxiety? Are they having physical symptoms such as stomach aches and headaches because of their anxiety? Are they having trouble sleeping, eating, etc. Are they avoiding certain people because of their anxiety? Are they getting angry easily? 

Recently, the U.S. Preventative Task Force issued a formal recommendation that children as young as 8 years old be screened for anxiety. In fact, there is an online self-reporting screening tool that is available for our youth and their parents at https://www.pediatricbipolar.pitt.edu/resources/instruments. Please remember that these are SCREENING tools, not a diagnosis. If you think that your child may be suffering from anxiety, make an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss your concerns. 

Remember that young children with anxiety grow up to be adolescents with anxiety and eventually adults with anxiety. Early intervention can make a significant difference in the life of a person suffering from anxiety. 

In children, the first line of therapy is usually cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy has the strongest scientific evidence as an effective treatment for anxiety. In children it can help them develop the necessary tools they need to manage the feelings of anxiety that can feel so overwhelming. This early intervention can make a significant difference in their lives, the lives of their friends and family and in their future self as well. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, take the screening test and if you find yourself or your child answering yes to most of the questions, consider making an appointment with your doctor. Remember that there is no health without mental health. Have a wonderful day and thank you for being here!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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