Diagnoses are on the rise with more and more children reporting symptoms.
Many adults may be familiar with feelings of anxiety, but the condition is becoming more common among children, too. Evidence suggests that up to a quarter of teens have struggled with an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
That is on track with what doctors are finding locally. “We’re seeing more cases of it, and it’s becoming more apparent at young ages,” says Lee Beers, medical director for municipal and regional affairs at the Child Health Advocacy Institute, which is part of Children’s National Health System.
She describes a number of dynamics that could be at play in the uptick, including near-constant access to social media and peers online and a heightened pressure to perform in activities such as school and sports, among other factors.
The symptoms can often mirror those in adults, which may include difficulty sleeping and changes in eating habits, along with behavioral changes, such as withdrawing from friends and family.
Beers says that working with a therapist can be helpful for kids and teens in managing stress and reducing levels of anxiety.
“Even brief therapeutic sessions can make a big difference for a child and their anxiety,” she says. “That’s probably the first and more important course of treatment.”
There’s also growing evidence that activities such as regular exercise, yoga and meditation can be beneficial in helping to mitigate feelings of anxiety.
Beers adds that acting quickly to help children and teens in distress can go a long way toward managing the condition.
“It’s always better to be thinking about these things before they get too problematic—they’re much easier to treat with earlier intervention,” she says.