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Children Living With Anxiety Often Don’t Get the Help They Need

It can be hard enough to manage your anxiety as an adult. A shocking number of people don't have access to health care resources, and many fear facing the stigma attached to mental illness. But for kids, dealing with anxiety can be even harder. Adolescence is incredibly stressful, especially with the advent of social media. Adolescent anxiety is pretty common - approximately 30% of kids will experience it at some point - but medical professionals are wary to over-diagnose mental health issues in kids. So finding the right treatment can be tricky, if parents and kids seek treatment at all. A whopping 80% of kids with diagnosable anxiety don't get the help they need, and for some, it lead to serious impairment.

Heather Matz first noticed her daughter's anxiety when the girl was just 4 years old. She struggled with leaving her mom to go to school, and cried nearly everyday at pick-up. Her anxiety got worse after some medical issues, and now, it affects nearly every aspect of her life. Matz told Healthline that her daughter began seeing a therapist when she was 7, but a move to a new state derailed the progress she made, and they were unable to find a therapist she felt comfortable with. The lack of therapist trained to deal with children is part of the problem, says Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Cora Collette Breuner.

Programs with the right doctors are too far away, parents face financial and insurance issues, or the therapy isn't tailored to meet the needs of a child with anxiety. Matz says that they're now trying to manage her daughter's anxiety at home with calming techniques, but that she hasn't ruled out giving therapy and even medication a chance if the situation doesn't improve.

There are some symptoms of adolescent anxiety that parents should be aware of. If your child has frequent headaches, stomachaches, or physical distress, or if they don't want to go to school or socialize, they might be suffering from anxiety. Additionally, if your child has excessive fears or worries, trouble sleeping, or is always on the lookout for what might go wrong, it may be in their best interest for you to investigate further.

There are treatment options available, like therapy and medication. Your child's pediatrician may have some advice and referrals for specialists trained to deal with mental illness in children, and school guidance counselors can also be another resource.

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