By Dr. David Woo - December 15, 2022
Welcome to Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry’s Mental health in the News weekly update. Below are some current news events relating to mental health and mental health treatments.
US National Task Force for Mental Health Recommends Screening Children and Teenagers for Anxiety
The US Preventive Services Task Force recently issued a new recommendation calling for kids between the ages of 8-18 to be screened for anxiety. About 8% of children and teenagers nationwide have an anxiety disorder. Mental health in kids has been deteriorating for the past ten years which may be due to the increased use of social media and the pandemic.
Even if parents do not think their kids have anxiety, they should take this recommendation seriously. Anxiety symptoms can get worse if left unaddressed and there are few if any downsides to being screened. Plus, oftentimes small changes can reduce symptoms before it turns into a more serious problem.
The Screening Process
Parents should ask their primary physicians to screen their children. The two most common screening tools used for anxiety are:
- Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED): Child and parent separately complete a questionnaire either agreeing or disagreeing to statements like “I worry about things that have already happened.”
- Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory for Children: The child rates his or her level of anxiety in different social situations including public performance and general conversation.
It is important to remember that a positive rating on these tools is not sufficient for an anxiety disorder diagnosis. The child will need a positive diagnostic assessment and follow-up with a trained mental health specialist.
There are two common forms of treatment for anxiety:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A type of talk therapy that helps patients change negative thought patterns and behaviors.
- Pharmacotherapy: Medications such as sertraline and fluoxetine are known to help reduce or calm anxiety symptoms.
More Research Needed
The authors of the recommendations also call for more research in order to better understand the effects of screening children for anxiety, the accuracy of those assessments, and how to provide care for different demographic groups.
To read the original news article, click here.
Anxiety Is On The Rise–And Loneliness May Be The Cause
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) study, anxiety and depression increased by 25% worldwide during the first year of the pandemic. Loneliness and isolation may be one of the explanations for anxiety being on the rise.
How Loneliness Causes Anxiety
Our brains are wired for social interactions. Feeling lonely, while painful, serves a purpose of driving people to seek out others and build relationships. Our ancestors hunted, gathered, and worked collectively to ensure the survival of the human race. Loneliness helped push our species to become the most dominant on this earth and many of our inventions revolve around promoting and maintaining social connections. With this understanding of the role of loneliness in our lives, we can better grasp how impactful the pandemic was on people, and it helps explain why more people are experiencing anxiety.
Identifying Anxiety: The Three A’s of Anxiety
After the pandemic, many people are reporting that they are having anxiety about traveling, being in crowded areas, leaving the house, and seeing or not seeing family and friends. While everyone experiences anxiety to a certain extent, if you think that you or someone you love might have a potential issue, you can use the “Three A’s of Anxiety” to identify a problem:
- Avoidance – Avoiding social interactions or being out in public.
- Ambivalence – Difficulty in making decisions due to overthinking, otherwise known as “analysis-paralysis”.
- Anticipation – Excessive worrying about the future.
What Should We Do About Loneliness and Anxiety?
If you or a loved one is experiencing loneliness and anxiety, the best thing to do is to talk to your doctor and request to be screened. Recently the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended that all children and adults be screened for anxiety by their primary care doctors. These recommendations not only help to reduce the stigma around mental health, it also leads to earlier diagnoses and interventions which produces better outcomes for patients.
To read the original news article, click here.
New Study Says Climate Anxiety Is On The Rise Worldwide
A new study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology surveyed 10,000 college students in 32 different countries about their feelings on climate change. The study found that anxiety about climate change is on the rise and is not only affecting those in wealthier countries but also young people in developing countries. The research shows that climate anxiety positively influences a person’s behavior in taking eco-friendly action, but negatively affects their mental health and wellbeing.
What is Climate-Anxiety?
“Climate-anxiety” is a term that refers to people whose mental health is negatively impacted by their concerns about climate change and global warming. Some associate the phrase with western, white, and wealthier countries, rather than with developing countries which are impacted more heavily by climate change. Researchers also assert that it is not a clinical diagnosis but only a popular new term. Regardless of how people feel about the term “climate-anxiety” itself, the study shows that young people from all around the world are worried and concerned about the future of our planet.
While anxious feelings about climate change negatively affects many young people, anxiety is playing a role in people taking positive actions to improve and conserve the environment. In 75% of the countries surveyed, climate anxiety led to more people adopting eco-friendly behaviors like walking to work or recycling. The highest correlation between anxiety and taking action were in wealthier and more individualistic countries like Finland. Political barriers may be the cause for why the correlation was weaker in developing or less democratic countries.