Treating childhood anxiety will prevent complications later

December 26th, 2008 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 26 (IANS) A psychiatrist has made a strong pitch for treating childhood anxiety disorders or they could lead to substance abuse and mental disorders in adulthood. “Anxiety disorders may cause children to avoid social situations and age-appropriate developmental milestones,” said Graham Emslie, professor of psychiatry and paediatrics at University of Texas-Southwestern.

“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 generalised anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder and social phobia.

Research has shown that failure to identify these disorders early leads to educational under-achievement and increased rates of anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse later in life.

Only with the adaptation of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition did the mental health community recognise that adult anxiety disorders have origins in childhood, wrote Emslie, the first psychiatrist to demonstrate that antidepressants are effective in depressed children and adolescents.

Anxiety disorders in children are frequently unrecognised because they may only report physical aches and may be unable to verbalise “worry” or “fear”, said Emslie, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Children’s Medical Centre Dallas, said a Texas university release.

The findings appeared in the Christmas issue of New England Journal of Medicine.

The editorial accompanies a study in the same issue of the journal by senior author John Walkup of Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. The pivotal research was conducted at seven medical institutions across the US.

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