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Mental Health Center

New Support for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT Helps Half of Kids With Anxiety Disorders
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Best When Parents Involved

Does your child suffer from an anxiety disorder? Children with anxiety problems may or may not act like anxious adults.

"Kids are more likely to have physical symptoms from anxiety disorders," Hagman says. "They have stomachaches or headaches; sometimes with vomiting or diarrhea. But they can look very worried, very stressed, and can have panic syndromes just as adults do."

Before jumping to the conclusion that your child has an anxiety disorder, Hagman advises parents to consider the child's developmental stage.

"A 2-year-old who won't get in the car because of separation anxiety is different from an 8-year-old who can't get into the car because he panics and has trouble breathing," she says. "If a child is afraid of a snake, that is normal. If a child is afraid to walk down the block because he or she is afraid of seeing a snake, that is a problem."

CBT helps. But parents can't expect simply to drop their child off at the therapist's office and expect results.

"Parents should be part of every session in some way," Hagman says. "If the child is under 12, parents need to be present for every appointment. In the teen years, we'll have some appointments with just the child. But you want the parent to learn to help the child use these new skills. That is real important. The ideal is the kid and the parents learn how to do this on their own, and the therapist is just directing them on how to use these skills properly."

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