Anxiety in Children Has Doubled

May is Mental Health Month

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According to a review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, children’s depression and anxiety rates have doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also shows that one in four children reports depression and one in five reports anxiety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control ( CDC) :

Anxiety may present as fear or worry, but can also make children irritable and angry. Anxiety symptoms can also include trouble sleeping, as well as physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches. Some anxious children keep their worries to themselves and, thus, the symptoms can be missed.

Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression. Because the symptoms primarily involve thoughts and feelings, they are sometimes called internalizing disorders.

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Different types of anxiety disorders in children (CDC):

When a child does not outgrow the typical fears and worries in young children, or when there are so many fears and worries that interfere with school, home, or play activities, the child may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Examples of different types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety)

  • Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)

  • Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)

  • Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)

  • Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder)

Symptoms to look for

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) writes that children with depression and/or anxiety may display these symptoms:

  • Depressed or irritable mood

  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating

  • Change in grades, getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school

  • Change in eating habits

  • Feeling angry or irritable

  • Mood swings

  • Feeling worthless or restless

  • Frequent sadness or crying

  • Withdrawing from friends and activities

  • Loss of energy

  • Low self-esteem

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

When symptoms last for a short period of time, it may be a passing case of “the blues.” But if they last for more than two weeks and interfere with regular daily activities and family and school life, your child may have a disorder.

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How Can I Help My Child?

Kids Health offers these tips:

If you think that your child has an anxiety disorder, here are some ways you can help:

  • Find a trained therapist and take your child to all the therapy appointments.

  • Talk often with the therapist, and ask how you can best help your child.

  • Ask the therapist how you can help your child practice at home. Praise your child for efforts to cope with fears and worry.

  • Help kids talk about feelings. Listen, and let them know you understand, love, and accept them. A caring relationship with you helps your child build inner strengths.

  • Encourage your child to take small steps forward. Don’t let your child give up or avoid what they’re afraid of. Help them take small positive steps forward.

  • Be patient. It takes a while for therapy to work and for kids to feel better.

Your family physician should be able to offer suggestions for mental health therapists in your area. If not, contact your local Health Department for assistance.

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