According to new research, more kids, teens, and young adults experience anxiety, but receive less treatment.
The study examined data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey between 2006 and 2018 to determine how many office-based doctor visits included a diagnosis of anxiety disorder and what, if any treatment, was provided. Patients observed ranged from 4 to 24-years-old.
According to a study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday, while visits for anxiety rose from 1.4% from 2006 to 2009 to 4.2% from 2014 to 2018 the proportion of therapy visits decreased.
In the last years of this survey, the US National Center for Health Statistics continues to administer it.
Researchers confirmed what mental health providers had reported: anxiety among young people in the United States is increasing, according to Dr. Laura Chavez. She is a principal researcher at Nationwide Children's Hospital, located in Columbus, Ohio.
Chavez stated that the burden of treating mental illnesses in young children is increasing. Even when patients can navigate the health system and attend visits with a doctor, they may still not receive the treatment they need.
The study has a weakness in that it only addresses a part of the issue, according to Dr. Lata McGinn, professor of psychology at Yeshiva University, New York City, who was not involved with the study.
McGinn said that while the study included people who were coming to the doctor for treatment, many others never came. McGinn is the cofounder of Cognitive & Behavioral Consultants located in White Plains. There are many people who don't even get anything.
Why do we need therapy?
McGinn says that the data surrounding treatment is concerning, as it shows that therapy is best for treating anxiety in most people.
She added that the majority of young people did not receive any type of therapy despite the fact that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for anxiety.
McGinn stated that best practices recommend that patients with severe conditions who benefit from medication should receive both psychotherapy and pharmaceutical interventions.
She said that taking medication as a sole form of treatment can mean you will be on it for quite some time.
McGinn added that this is especially worrying for young people, who are still in the process of social and biological development.
Ariana Hoet is the executive clinical director for On Our Sleeves - an initiative of Nationwide Children's Hospital to promote children's mental well-being. Hoet did not participate in the research.
She added that therapy is designed to teach people to swim. However, sometimes they are exhausted from trying to navigate the currents, and need flotation devices to help them.
Hoet stated that the medication could be this. You can take these floaties and get a breather. You can still go to therapy to learn about the tools you need to live with the symptoms and cope with them.
Chavez suggested that a more effective treatment, including therapy, could help to address the mental health issues of young people.
She added, 'We'd hope patients could have access to both so that we don't see these sort of changes over time where we're observing that actually more patients receive medications only.
What you can do to ensure your family receives the right help
There are ways that families can get help, even though there's a bigger problem with resources and accessibility when it comes mental health care.
Chavez stated that 'Unfortunately, because of the design of our system, a large part is the responsibility for advocating, and navigating, this falls on the patient and the family.
McGinn said that one of the first steps to preventing anxiety in children is to learn how to identify it early. This type of behavior is usually manifested in avoidance, such as avoiding sleeping alone or staying home from school.
McGinn advises that parents should not give in to anxiety, even if it is to avoid the immediate anxiety.
This might mean that you don't let your child stay at home when they feel anxious. She said that you shouldn't dismiss chronically anxious behaviors as shyness, but instead consult a mental health specialist for an assessment.
She said that even though pharmaceutical companies spend more money on marketing their products, it is important to work with providers who have proven therapy programs like CBT.
Hoet suggests that families reach out to their child's workplace or school to find out if they can help.
She added that families can find resources and help in the interim at onoursleeves.org.