Anxiety in kids a growing concern

Educators say social, academic stresses affecting more young people

With growing pressures at school relating to an increased workload and social media, more children and young adults are suffering from anxiety than ever before.

At a parenting program held at Shaker Junior High School Tuesday, Feb. 4, psychologist Melissa A. Them spoke with parents about how to help their children cope with anxiety.

“Anxiety — everybody on the planet has it, most of us don’t care for it. Except that having anxiety is a really important part of human functioning,” said Them. “It’s normal to have stress, and stress can serve us quite well.”

But Them said there is a balance that needs to be reached there.

“What we don’t want to do, is to have it take over us and make living our every day lives problematic,” she said.

The Anxiety and Depressions association of America states that anxiety disorders now affect one in eight children. Many studies show this is a trend that has been increasing over the past 25 years. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, this is also an issue that is more likely to affect girls and young women, with 30 percent of women and 20 percent of men likely to develop an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.

The causes range from extra stresses at school to an increasingly violent society, and local school officials said they are seeing its effects more and more.

“We’ve seen a real increase in kids with anxiety in the past few years — a definite increase,” said Stacey Angell, a school counselor at Shaker. “There’s a lot of causes for the anxiety; increased pressure to perform at school with their academics, and there are increased pressures from society before they’re developmentally ready.”

Angell said that incidents like Sandy Hook and around-the-clock coverage of natural disasters expose children to catastrophes that they aren’t mature enough to handle or process.

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