The New Way to Prevent Anxiety in Kids


From TIME: Researchers are developing programs to teach social skills, conflict resolution, and breathing techniques to preschool children who are at risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Results are promising: in a pilot study of one of these programs, nearly three-quarters of the kids met criteria for social anxiety disorder before participating, and afterwards less than a third did.

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  1. KIds being taught social skills is a good thing, but they are conflating two different things here. This very much sounds to me like learned behavior on the part of the children of anxious parents who lack the ability to personally teach social skills. Calling that mental illness is ludicrous. It also looks like a fabulous gateway into the mental health system at large for the third of kids who don’t get better. And rather than teaching those kids that it’s okay to still be distressed, they’ll likely be medicated and stigmatized as mentally ill. So I’m really of two minds about this, I suppose.

    I believe the current anxiety epidemic is a result of a totally unnatural way of living we’ve adopted in our modern society. Seems to me this family had the right idea:

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    • And stop teaching them that the world is dangerous! We didn’t have stranger danger when I was a kid. We were taught if something was wrong, to find an adult. Now if smile at a child in the grocery store, half the parents pull them closer like the child is some sort of security object!

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    • True story:

      Last winter, I was visiting a doctor in a medical specialty building. Waiting at the elevators with me, two parents were arguing with their small children about putting their coats on. I giggled and said to the parents “mine were the same way”. They looked panicked that a stranger had spoken to them, shared a look between them and decided to take the stairs. This isn’t even a city reaction where nobody talks to each other, this is in an upscale suburb. So yeah, there is an awful lot of learned fearfulness on kids part.

      (Oh, and I’m generally described as “girl next door”, trustworthy, nonfrightening. I’m not a scary looking person, and yet all too many people have this reaction to strangers now!)

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  2. Why is MIA interested in articles that promote disease talk and genetic predispositions? No child is at risk because the parent “had” an “anxiety disorder”. Anxious parents may certainly rear anxious children for obvious reasons and if a child at that age is anxious as a result of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of the parents, no amount of correct breathing, conflict resolution and social skills training is going to help them. This reminds of the Australian psychiatrist who was able to pre-empt psychosis in “at risk” young people and wanted to put them on “anti-psychotics”, just in case

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