By Dr. Corey Milsap, PsyD, LPC, CSP, LSP, LMHC
The mental well-being of children is receiving increasing attention, with anxiety and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) emerging as dominant concerns. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies both as prevalent issues among children.
While everyone experiences anxiety as a protective response to potential threats, anxiety disorders are more severe. They manifest as heightened, prolonged, and sometimes unnecessary fears or worries, often out of proportion to the situations at hand.
The 2018 report by the Child Mind Institute sheds light on anxiety symptoms, characterizing them as “an aversion to ambiguity, heightened reactions to perceived threats, and avoidance”. Children might sometimes “shy away from triggering situations or objects” or may “display sudden intense fear or frustration.”
Evolve Treatment Centers further list symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, focus issues, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances as indicative of anxiety.
The incidence of anxiety disorders has been on the rise. CDC data reveals that nearly 5.8 million American children, about 9.4%, are diagnosed with anxiety. Meanwhile, the Child Mind Institute’s research points out various anxiety forms: 2% of US adolescents with generalized anxiety, 2% with panic disorder, 8% with separation anxiety, 9% with social anxiety, and 13% with specific phobias. Globally, 7% of children and adolescents exhibit anxiety, but alarmingly, only 1% of affected teens pursue treatment within the initial year. Neglecting these symptoms can lead to serious implications like depression, academic struggles, and an amplified risk of substance abuse.
On the other hand, ADHD stands as a major neurodevelopmental disorder, as stated by the CDC. It impacts a child’s behavior, evident in their “difficulty in maintaining focus, impulsive decision-making, or hyperactivity.”
There are three main behavioral patterns associated with ADHD: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Inattentiveness can be identified by careless academic errors, difficulty in sustaining attention, incomplete tasks, organizational challenges, and susceptibility to distractions. Hyperactivity is marked by constant movement, restlessness, excessive talking, and impatience.
Recent statistics are revealing. Between 2016 and 2019, approximately 6 million American children were diagnosed with ADHD, with distribution across age groups being 265,000 (3-5 years), 2.4 million (6-11 years), and 3.3 million (12-17 years).
While there are existing treatments for both anxiety and ADHD, it’s essential that educational institutions provide a nurturing environment for these children to flourish.
Anxiety disorders – Symptoms and causes. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
Child Mind Institute. (2018). Understanding Anxiety in Children and Teens: 2018 Childrenâ€™s Mental Health Report. Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/CMI_2018CMHR.pdf
Miller, C. (2022, March 22). ADHD in the Classroom, Teaching Students with ADHD. Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/whats-adhd-and-whats-not-in-the-classroom/
What is ADHD? (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html
What Is Children’s Mental Health? (2022, April 19). CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/basics.htmlWhyte, A. (n.d.). Teen Stress and Anxiety: Facts and Statistics. Evolve Treatment Centers. https://evolvetreatment.com/blog/teen-stress-anxiety-facts/