A national panel of health experts says all kids ages 8 to 18 should be screened regularly for anxiety. This draft recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force comes at a time when mental health problems among children have escalated and are overwhelming the health system. Child and adolescent mental health experts welcome the recommendations.
“It has increasingly become clear that most mental illnesses manifest in childhood and adolescence,” says Jennifer Havens, MD, the Arnold Simon Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and chair of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
But anxiety disorder, one of the most common mental illnesses among children, can go undetected for a long time. “It can be quiet. Kids who are anxious are often self-conscious and are not going to share this with their families or their physicians, necessarily. So screening is a very, very good idea,” says Dr. Havens, who oversees patient care at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.
Most cases of anxiety in children can be treated with psychotherapy, she adds. Only kids with severe anxiety need medication. That’s why, she says, the earlier a child gets a diagnosis, the easier the condition is to treat.
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