Experts say children should have anxiety screening at age 8

What parents need to know

This recommendation recommends that children be screened for anxiety regardless of whether a doctor notices any symptoms. This can help detect anxiety in children before they develop serious symptoms.

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Providers and their families can screen patients early to allow them to be treated as quickly as possible. Research shows that people who have anxiety from a young age are more likely to develop substance abuse, anxiety in adulthood, or depression.

Dr. Yasas Tanturi, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and assistant professor of clinical psychoiatry at Vanderbilt’s Monroe Carell Jr. Hospital, agrees that it is important to detect anxiety early.

These disorders typically begin in elementary school, which makes them the most common psychiatric disorder that can manifest throughout a person’s lifetime. Healthline’s Tanguturi says that while fears and worries are normal for this age group, it is crucial to recognize when they become serious enough to affect day-to-day functioning.

He explained that anxiety can be mixed with other conditions, creating more complicated illnesses.

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What to expect in the pediatrician’s offices

Parents and patients are asked questions about the underlying conditions and exposures of children when they present to their primary physician’s office. This is done to assess for lead exposure, milestones that are appropriate for children’s ages, safety in the home, and other factors.

Halfond stated, “This screening could take place during routine check-ups with your pediatrician or any other opportunity.”

This screening could be used to identify anxiety in younger patients, before they present with the overt or obvious symptoms of anxiety.

These symptoms will allow clinicians to monitor these trends and intervene to offer resources and support to prevent anxiety. The screening can be a conversation-starting point to express emotions before it is too late.

Halfond believes that it is important that children who are positive for screening be connected to care to receive an additional assessment to confirm their diagnosis, and then receive evidence-based treatment.

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Anxiety signs in children

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, if your child experiences any of these symptoms, it could be early signs of anxiety.

  • Refusing school
  • Frequent stomachaches or other complaints
  • Panic and tantrums during times of separation from parents
  • Low self-esteem, low self-confidence

There are many things to be worried about before they actually happen:

  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Experts agree that the pandemic has made it more difficult for children to cope with stressful situations.

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“While it doesn’t seem like all of this is related to the pandemic,” Tanguturi said.

This is not yet a formal recommendation, but the task force has a draft version of its guidelines that is open for public comment. The task force will likely finalize the recommendation before the end of the year.