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Author: Dr Sabina DosaniConsultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

There is good evidence for early intervention – delays in diagnosis and poor follow up can lead to a worsening of symptoms and make risk other conditions developing alongside.”

Dr Sabina Dosani - MBBS, MSc, MRCPsych

Talking therapies for anxiety disorders

Research has shown that talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be hugely effective for children with anxiety disorders, teaching them active coping strategies, distraction techniques and problem focused solutions.

EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) is a type of therapy that involves using a gentle visual stimulus, for instance moving a pen from side to side in front of the patient’s eyes, whilst asking the patient to focus on the distressing thought. EMDR helps the brain to re-programme itself and is a recognised treatment option for anxiety disorders, particularly effective with PTSD.

Often children and adults adopt avoidance focused coping strategies as a way of managing their anxiety, which can be ‘successful’ in allowing them to get on with their daily lives. However, they don’t address the root problems and risk reinforcing the fear of the anxiety inducing event or object, making things even harder in the future.

Having a safe space, with someone who is specifically trained to deal with anxiety, can allow your child or teenager to talk through their condition and learn successful ways of dealing with challenges they may face. If the anxiety is caused by a traumatic life event, psychotherapy can be very useful in helping them deal with the complicated emotions they are experiencing. The hope is that talking therapies equip your child with lifelong skills, resulting in them being happier and able to live their lives more fully.

Research has shown a combination of CBT and medication is more effective than either treatment alone


Medication options for anxiety disorders

Sometimes medication will be recommended. Medications such as antidepressants have been successfully used by young people to overcome their anxiety disorders.

Often a talking therapy will also be recommended and it has repeatedly been shown that medication taken alongside a talking therapy can be more effective. Whilst many parents are understandably concerned about their child taking antidepressants, there are pros and cons to the approach. Antidepressants can be highly effective at helping children overcome the often debilitating symptoms of an anxiety disorder, so with careful management, can be very useful.

We always recommend seeing an expert in child and adolescent mental health if you think your child may benefit from taking an antidepressant. A psychiatrist will closely monitor your child and provide you and the child with important information that you will need in order to make sure your child is able to tolerate the medication.

Expert, professional and kind – thank you for everything you have done for our children.

Louie, Sussex

Parents often aren’t sure when their child’s anxiety becomes a ‘proper’ problem. My advice? When it interferes with their life. It’s normal to feel anxious at times, but if your child’s anxiety gets in the way of daily activities, causes them distress or occurs frequently, I would advise seeking professional help.
MBBS, MSc, MRCPsych

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
London

Dr Sabina Dosani is a highly experienced Consultant Psychiatrist currently working for the Anna Freud Centre looking after Children and Adolescents. She has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery as well as being a member of the Royal College...

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