Children Living with Anxiety Often Don’t Get the Help They Need

Heather Matz began noticing symptoms of anxiety in her daughter when she was just 4 years old.
By the time her little girl started kindergarten, she was struggling with leaving her mom every day.
She’d also cry at the end of most days when Matz picked her up.
After a series of medical issues, the anxiety Heather’s daughter was experiencing became severe.
Today, Matz told Healthline that her now 12-year-old’s anxiety “affects her sleep, her eating, her emotional state, and her physical health. She regularly has an upset stomach, abdominal pain, headaches, and insomnia. She gets worked up easily, cries regularly, and struggles with self-esteem.”
Matz’s daughter isn’t alone in her experience with anxiety.
According to a recent report released by the Child Mind Institute, anxiety affects 30 percent of children and adolescents at some point in their lives.
The institute reports a 17 percent increase in anxiety among young people over the last 10 years. And the National Institute of Mental Health reports that of those who have anxiety, 8.3 percent experience severe impairment as a result of it.
“It’s hard, because you don’t want to overdiagnose this generation with mental health conditions,” Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Cora Collette Breuner told Healthline.
“Adolescence is stressful in general, though probably more so for this generation than ours, because there is no real way to shut it off,” she continued. “Kids have 24/7 access to what their peers think of them. Which turns out to be a real struggle for most of the kids I see in my office.”
A common problem that’s commonly not treated
Treatment is available and can be effective, but the report from the Child Mind Institute found that 80 percent of kids with diagnosable anxiety never get the help they need.
Matz tried to get that help for her daughter. They began seeing a therapist in Oregon when she was 7 years old.“Therapy at that time was tough, and she didn’t open up much,” Matz explained. “She didn’t like going and was hesitant about each appointment, but her doctor was extremely patient and worked with her well.”
Then they moved to California, and the therapy experience just got harder. Matz explains that her daughter grew incredibly anxious about therapy and couldn’t bring herself to even walk into the therapist’s office. Instead, she’d stand in the hall or doorway for her entire appointment.“I would sit in the office and try to encourage her to come in. But after a couple of months of weekly appointments, the therapist became annoyed and said that there really wasn’t anything she could do to help her if she wouldn’t come in the office, that medication was the only option.”