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More children dealing with anxiety?

October 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed surprising news: More and more children are experiencing anxiety.Helping your child deal with it first requires being able to recognize it.

"I guess it doesn't surprise me given what's going on in the world, with the economy and the election and everything," said one mother.

"I think everybody's anxiety is up 50, 60 percent because of the economy, the stresses of life. I just think the children feed off the parents," said Drew Gordon, a father.

"Kids do feel our anxiety," said Dr. Jason Stein, psychologist.

Recognizing the signs can be tricky. Child psychologist Jason Stein says anxiety is feeling something you're unable to express or identify.

"In the younger children, most anxiety will look more like irritability. The kid that's maybe a little hyperactive has a difficult time focusing on activities, maybe doesn't follow directions so well," said Stein.

Older kids may show anxiety by being more rebellious or defiant. They may break rules, cheat in school or constantly show up late.

A National Institutes of Health study focused on 7- to 17-year-olds with separation-anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia. The study found that cognitive therapy, combined with antidepressants, was the most effective treatment.

While that is positive news, Dr. Stein says parents should know a few things about their kids before seeking treatment.

"One of the most important things, in terms of our relationship with our children, is really getting to know who they are around, what is their emotional world," said Stein. "If we're not attuned to their needs -- understanding who they are and what they need -- then they will find other ways to get our attention."

Dr. Stein went on to say that "Kids are very good at communicating. It's just if us, as adults, are good at listening."

Dr. Stein says if your kids are acting outside of what is considered normal for them, then it might be time to seek some professional help.

UCLA researchers took part in the child/adolescent anxiety multi-modal study.


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