Task Force Says ALL Kids Ages 8 and Older Should Be Screened for Anxiety

All kids ages 8 and up should be screened for anxiety, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The task force shared its draft of the new guidelines for children and adolescents, which is now open for public comment, on Tuesday ahead of Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

Currently, the task force says it has "no evidence on appropriate or recommended screening intervals," though noting that "repeated screening may be most productive in adolescents with risk factors for anxiety."

However, Martha Kubik, a member of the task force and professor in the School of Nursing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., told The New York Times that children should be screened during their annual check-ups.

"It's critical to be able to intervene before a life is disrupted," Kubik explained.

About 7.1% of children and adolescents ages 3 to 17 years old (approximately 4.4 million) have a current anxiety disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC says the problem has grown over time alongside depression, which impacts about 3.2% of the country's youth (approximately 1.9 million).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM 5) recognizes seven different types of anxiety disorders in kids ages 8 to 18 such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and separation anxiety disorder, per the task force.

Risk factors for such disorders range from genetics and personality to environmental factors such as "attachment difficulties, interparental conflict, parental overprotection, early parental separation, and child maltreatment." 

The task force reported poverty and low socioeconomic status "are also associated with higher rates of anxiety disorders" in children. Females and members of the LGBTQ community are also said to be at an increased risk for such disorders.

Additionally, anxiety conditions were most common in older children ages 12 to 17 years than those ages 11 years or younger.

Speaking with the Times, Dr. Carol Weitzman, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the co-director of the Autism Spectrum Center at Boston Children's Hospital, highlighted the importance of early screening and addressing mental health with young people. 

"We need to shine the light brightly on the mental health needs of children, youth and adolescents in this country, and we need to be advocating for better access to mental health care."


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