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National Institute of Mental Health

NIMH Radio: Anxiety Disorders in Children



Time: 00:03:31 | Size: 3.35 MB
Speaker: Joel Sherrill, Ph.D. (NIMH)

Description: Dr. Joel Sherrill, head of the Child and Adolescent Psychosocial Intervention Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health, talks about the various anxiety disorders that can affect children.

Announcer: NIMH Radio-from Bethesda.

Dr. Sherrill: Social phobia - social anxiety- is diagnosed when youth become overwhelmed or anxious or excessively self-conscious in social situations...

Announcer: Dr. Joel Sherrill is head of the Child and Adolescent Psychosocial Intervention Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health. For children, and adults, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. But problems can occur when, for example, social anxiety becomes excessive and disabling...

Dr. Sherrill: Children with social phobia usually have an intense and chronic fear that others are watching them carefully or evaluating them or they'll be judged or that they'll do something embarrassing. And the fear can become really severe, such that the child becomes dreadful of social situations or avoids them altogether. And then the anxiety can start to interfere with school or friendships or family activities.

Announcer: A similar type disorder is generalized anxiety...

Dr. Sherrill: For example, some youths with generalized anxiety disorder can't get rid of their concerns even though they might realize that the fear is out of proportion. They can't relax, they startle easily- they have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and they experience a variety of physical symptoms as well.

Announcer: Perhaps the most commonly diagnosed type of anxiety is separation anxiety...

Dr. Sherrill: It's characterized by extreme anxiety and distress upon separation from parents or from other familiar people. And these youth often have exaggerated worries about something bad happening to their parents, or their loved ones or they might worry about being lost or kidnapped- they might refuse to be alone or go to school. Sometimes they're reluctant to even sleep alone. And it's common for these children to fear separation from parents or loved ones at certain ages- most kids do. But kids with separation anxiety disorder experience excessive anxiety and a lot of distress.

Announcer: Anxiety symptoms can overlap or co-occur with other behavior problems such as depression or ADHD.

Dr. Sherrill: A thorough assessment is needed not only to determine the nature of the anxiety and the frequency of the symptoms but also to evaluate whether there are situations or other medical conditions that contribute to the anxiety. And a mental health professional can conduct a thorough assessment to see what kind of symptoms are present, access their severity, their frequency and to evaluate if they're interfering with the child's functioning at home or at school or with peers.

Announcer: A recent NIMH funded study looked at three treatment options for childhood anxiety - therapy, medication and a combination of the two.

Dr. Sherrill: Cognitive behavior therapy or CBT presents parents and children with information about anxiety. It provides training in anxiety management skills and it usually also includes behavioral exercises that gradually expose the child to fear and situations so they can master their fears. Results of other studies also support the use of other medications... specifically the serotonin re-uptake inhibitors for the treatment of anxiety in youth. These are the same medications that are used to treat depression and anxiety in adults and depression in children and adolescents

Announcer: Dr. Joel Sherrill on NIMH Radio.


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