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Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents need to be treated, because if left untreated, they could lead to poor academic performance and substance abuse.

Professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UT Southwestern, Dr. Graham Emslie, says that anxiety disorders cause children to avoid social situations and age-appropriate developmental milestones, which can lead to less opportunity to develop social skills necessary for success later in life. Treatment should help children learn some healthy coping skills.

Currently, up to 20% of children and adolescents are affected by persistent and excessive worry that can manifest as generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder or social phobia. Empirical studies have shown that failure to identify these disorders on time may lead to educational underachievement and increased rates of anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse later in life.

Dr. Emslie, who is the first psychiatrist that demonstrated that antidepressants were effective in depressed children and adolescents, reported that only with the adaptation of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition did the mental health community manage to recognize that adult anxiety disorders have origins in childhood.

The reason why anxiety disorders in children are frequently unrecognized is because children usually only report physical aches and rarely "worry" or "fear.

Another study dealt with the same issue – anxiety disorders in children and adolescent but it examined the effects treatment had on the patients.
They directly compared medication treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy that examines thinking patterns in order to modify behavior, and the combination of both treatments in children and teens with anxiety disorders.
The results showed that antidepressant medications and cognitive behavioral therapy were equally effective treatments for anxiety and that the combination of both treatments was most effective.

Dr. Emslie hopes that the future studies will build on this work to determine what type to treatment is best for individual patients. Children need to be treated to the point of complete remission, otherwise, they are likely to relapse. It's crucial to help children overcome their anxiety disorders for their own lifetime good.


I agree that children should be routinely screened for anxiety disorders and other mental conditions as part of their annual physical exam. I consider anxiety disorder a form of mental illness that should be given equal importance as physical illnesses.