Are you passing anxiety and depression to your kids?

Amy Hendel Health Guide
  • Here's an important statistic - children of parents with anxiety disorders are up to 7 times more likely than others to develop anxiety problems themselves and children of depressed parents are at high risk of becoming depressed.


    According to experts, depressed children are more likely to have trouble at school and are at increased risk for suicide or substance abuse.  Two recent studies, suggest that an intervention that involves diagnosis and treatment by a therapist, can break the cycle and prevent mental health problems in children and teens.  Judy Garber, a researcher at Vanderbilt University is author of a recent study on this topic, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  She believes that the teen years could be the best time to prevent depression, because most depressed adults indicate that their problems began in adolescence.  One in five teens will experience depression by age 18.

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    Ms. Garber's study focused specifically on high risk teens, who had parents with diagnosed depression.  All 316  students had already experienced depression when her study began.  Half of the students were randomly assigned to eight weekly group sessions with other teens.  After 8 weeks, the teens who attended therapy were less likely to have had another episode of depression, when compared to the group that did not receive therapy.  Unfortunately, the therapy did not seem to help teens whose parents were currently suffering with frank depression.  One expert theorizes that kids whose parents have frank depression may feel "adrift" because their parents are unable to give them the support and encouragement that most kids need.


    Another small study out of Johns Hopkins Children's Center tried to help younger children who were not yet exhibiting anxiety problems.  All 40 child participants had parents with diagnosed anxiety disorder.  Half the young children (and their parents) participated in an 8 week cognitive behavioral therapy a learned to recognize their behaviors that might make the children anxious (being over-protective, worrying out loud), while children learned coping skills.  After on year, none of the children in the therapy developed anxiety, while 30% of children in the control group were diagnosed with anxiety disorders. 


    Currently few insurance companies pay for cognitive therapy, but the authors of these studies hope that their findings will provide the evidence to justify reimbursements.

Published On: June 16, 2009