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New study suggests screening young children for anxiety

Doctor shortage 110819
Posted at 8:14 AM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 09:37:26-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new study done by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening children as young as 8 years old for anxiety.

Even before the pandemic started, the rate of symptoms and diagnosable mental health conditions in young people was on the rise, according to doctors at Children's Mercy Hospital.

The hospital is seeing more young children with more serious symptoms.

The study's findings recommend having regular anxiety screenings for teens aged 12 to 18, and to screen even children as young as 8 for symptoms.

The task force did not say in the study how often kids should be screened. Doctors at Children's Mercy weighed in on the topic.

"I don't think we know yet exactly how often scheduled screening needs to occur. So that was the recommendation that came out is that primary care providers begin specific screening tools or screening processes in their clinics. So it's a very new recommendation, and one that we're going to be looking at very carefully," Dr. Sarah Soden, Division Director of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Mercy said. "But, I think for parents and families at home it's really about as often as comfortable creating the opportunity for your children to be open with you, not just about anxiety, but all manner of you know, the things that parents should know."

Soden said it's important for parents to keep conversations open and make sure their child knows it's okay to talk about how they are feeling.

"Anxiety is normal, everyone has some anxiety. It's even useful in life, it helps us be alert and prepare for things to get things done," Soden said. "So what we really want is a healthy awareness, we want an engagement, we want to be opening the door so that our kids can talk to us."

Signs that your child might need a screening can be unexplainable headaches or stomachaches, avoidance of participating in activities or even getting into altercations.

Soden suggests seeing your child's primary care doctor to talk about a screening and next steps.