How Stress and Anxiety Are Hurting Children

Kids are feeling more anxiety these days, especially in elite public high schools. That’s according to a recent series by the Chicago Tribune and Pioneer Press.

The pressure for good grades – nailing that placement test – and juggling extra-curricular activities to boost college applications are taking their toll. That anxiety is putting more kids into mental health facilities. And when you throw in family problems and complicated teenage social situations, some kids have even taken their own lives.

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So what does anxiety look like in children? 

“Often when we see kids who are angry, bad, or obstinate, they are anxious,” said Dr. Debra Kissen, the Clinic Director of the Light On Anxiety Treatment Center. Kissen specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anxiety and related disorders. She also serves on the scientific advisory board of Beyond OCD and is the chair of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America Public Education Committee.

“In 3-year-olds, you see separation anxiety, tantrums,” said Kissen. “In college kids, you see them failing. Parents sometimes think its drugs, but it may be anxiety.”  

“Anxiety needs active treatment,” said Dr. John Walkup, the head of the Adolescent Psychiatry Department at the Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital. He’s also the director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“People tended to think kids will grow out of it and they tend to dismiss it,” said Walkup. “Now we know kids don’t get better just by being supportive. A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and Zoloft is what it takes.”

According to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy that helps patients confront “inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.”

Kissen and Walkup join us to discuss childhood anxiety.

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