Surprisingly, a new study recently published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics has found that as many as 2.6 million American children and adolescents were suffering from at least one anxiety disorder in 2011-12. This is particularly worrisome when one considers that even moderate forms of anxiety disorders can be extremely disruptive to a patient’s life. Some may be overcome with symptoms of fatigue, restlessness, and an inability to concentrate. More dramatic types of anxiety disorder, meanwhile, can be all but debilitating. Those who suffer from panic attacks, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and severe phobias (such as agoraphobia or social phobia) can find themselves virtually shutoff from the world.
For children, this type of isolation can present developmental issues, as well. The study found that, “Even after adjustment for other health problems, the presence of anxiety or depression was associated with increased use of healthcare services, more problems at school, and higher levels of aggravation for parents.” Left untreated, anxiety disorders can leave children feeling increasingly alienated and may negatively impact their ability to successfully enter into the adult world.
What is perhaps most alarming is that the study found that the number of children between the ages of six and 17 suffering from anxiety has grown by nearly 900,000 within four years. The researchers examined the data from the National Survey of Children’s Health for the years 2003, 2007, and 2011-12 and found that 3.5 percent of those surveyed in 2007 reported having anxiety, while 5.3 exhibited symptoms of anxiety in 2011-12.
The paper’s lead author, Dr. Rebecca H. Bitsko, PhD, of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, could not determine if child anxiety is under-diagnosed or if there is a reason causing the surge.