December 25, 2008

Child anxiety disorders should be treated

Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents should be recognized and treated, a child psychiatrist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center says.

Dr. Graham Emslie reports anxiety disorders in children and adolescents should be recognized and treated to help prevent educational underachievement, substance abuse and mental disorders in adulthood.

In an editorial appearing in the Dec. 25 issue of New England Journal of Medicine, Emslie urges awareness that children need to be treated for anxiety disorders and recommends related empirical evidence be integrated into treatment guidelines.

Anxiety disorders may cause children to avoid social situations and age-appropriate developmental milestones, Emslie says in a statement. Further, the avoidance cycle can lead to less opportunity to develop social skills necessary for success later in life. Treatment would help children learn healthy coping skills.

Up to 20 percent of children and adolescents are affected by persistent and excessive worry that can manifest as generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder and social phobia, Emslie says.

Only recently has the mental health community recognize that adult anxiety disorders have origins in childhood.