“The results underscore the vulnerability of offspring of anxious parents. If we can identify kids at risk, let us try and prevent them,” said psychiatrist Golda Ginsburg from <g data-gr-id="34">University</g> of Connecticut.
Ginsburg and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University tested a one-year family therapy intervention as part of a study of 136 families — with at least one parent with anxiety and at least one child between the ages of six and 13. The study found that family-based intervention works.
Only nine <g data-gr-id="38">per cent</g> of children who participated in a therapist-directed family intervention developed anxiety after one year, compared to 21 <g data-gr-id="39">per cent</g> in a group that received written instruction, and 31 <g data-gr-id="40">per cent</g> in the group that did not receive any therapy or written instruction.
Anxiety tends to run in families, with up to 50 <g data-gr-id="41">per cent</g> of children of anxious parents growing up to be anxious themselves. Until now, anxiety prevention programmes have been largely conducted in schools, with only modest success. For an anxious child, meeting a new peer for the first time can be paralysing. Trying an unfamiliar food might summon worries of being poisoned.
“To cope with this kind of debilitating anxiety, kids start avoiding whatever provokes the anxious feelings,” Ginsburg noted.
If they are afraid of the dark, they might insist on sleeping with all the lights on. If they’re afraid of failing, they won’t try new things. In extreme cases, they may refuse even to leave the house. Anxiety and fear are protective and adaptive.
But in anxious kids they may not <g data-gr-id="33">be,</g> because these children have thoughts about danger and threat when there really isn’t one. “I would say we need to change our model of mental health to
a check-up method. Like going to the dentist every six months,” Ginsburg noted in a paper that appeared in The American Journal of Psychiatry.