Physicians’ Task Force Says It’s Time to Screen All Kids for Anxiety

anxiety screening for children iStock

The pandemic is continuing to highlight mental health issues, especially in vulnerable children. Now, experts are making new recommendations when it comes to one of the most common mental health disorders for kids: anxiety.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that all children ages eight to 18 should be screened for anxiety, a first for its kind recommendation. The task force, which has been in operation since 1984, is made up of volunteer experts whose goal is to provide guidance to health care providers about preventive care.

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The recommendation is that all kids be screened for anxiety, even if they are not showing symptoms. Martha Kubik, a professor at the School of Nursing at George Mason University and task force member states, “It’s critical to be able to intervene before a life is disrupted,” according to the New York Times.

Holding hands on stairs, anxiety screening for children
Amy Humphries/Unsplash

Ideally children would go through the screening process at their annual well check appointment. Physicians will likely have several options for survey and questionnaires, some of which can hone in on specific disorders, while others may be more generalized.

If a child’s screening shows a need for support, it is a starting point for follow-up by their physician and does not signal an immediate diagnosis. Most importantly the screening ensures that a child who may not otherwise be showing signs of anxiety does not slip through the cracks and receives early intervention and care.

Dr. Jennifer Havens, the chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine states that  “It has increasingly become clear that most mental illnesses manifest in childhood and adolescence.” The USPSTF goes on to share that “Kids with anxiety disorders are at higher risk of anxiety disorders and depression in adulthood, along with related risks like substance abuse.”

The draft recommendation statement is open for public comments until May 9, with final recommendations hoping to be published by the end of 2022.


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