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U.S. health officials recommend children get screened for anxiety

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Health officials are recommending children ages 8 and up get screened for anxiety. A pediatric journal revealed in 2020 nearly 6 million kids in the United States were diagnosed with anxiety. Some health officials are saying this is a problem that already existed, but with the combination of isolation plus other mental health issues, the pandemic put a spotlight on its severity.

The United States Preventative Services Task Force is now recommending that children aged 8 years old and older start getting tested for anxiety.

"Anxiety is definitely a problem in kids, in fact, last year the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a mental health emergency in children," said Dr. Katrina Skinner at Fairhope Pediatrics.

Health officials are pointing the finger at the pandemic. Dr. Wes Stubblefield with the Alabama Department of Public Health says during the height of COVID, he saw increases of anxiety and depression in children.

"The general stress of the pandemic, not being in their learning environment, not interacting with their friends, limited social options," all led to increases in mental health concerns for children, said Dr. Stubblefield.

Dr. Katrina Skinner tells WPMI anxiety can present itself differently in children.

"We think about in ourselves as adults if we're feeling anxious, we may think of certain physical symptoms or certain emotional or mental symptoms, in kids- they may have some of those symptoms it could also be things like trouble sleeping, abdominal symptoms, school avoidance, or anger outbursts," says Skinner.

Because it may be more difficult for children to verbalize what they're feeling, Stubblefield said it is that much more important for children to get screened.

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"Because these rates are going up, it's better to do screening for children who aren't having obvious symptoms to try to identify the children whose parents might not have an idea that things are going on because many times by the time their child has started to show those severe symptoms it can be a long steady climb back to some sense of being normal," says Stubblefield.

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