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Screening Children for Anxiety

Screening Children for Anxiety

After a systematic review of 39 studies to evaluate the benefits and harms of screening for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents aged 8 to 18, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a group of disease prevention and medical experts assembled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, now recommends that primary care physicians perform such screenings, even if there are no signs or symptoms of anxiety. 

A common mental health condition in the U.S., anxiety disorder involves excessive fear or worry that manifests as emotional and physical symptoms. In children and adolescents, it is associated with impaired functioning, educational underachievement and an increased likelihood of a future anxiety disorder or depression. The 2018-2019 National Survey of Children’s Health found that 7.8 percent of children and adolescents aged 3 to 17 had a current anxiety disorder.

USPSTF recommended using screening questionnaires to identify children at risk, noting that studies show that children with anxiety benefit from treatments that may include cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy. They also concluded that there is insufficient evidence to assess children 7 years old or younger.

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