Many children suffer from anxiety. In fact, some consider it a common part of development, as children are bound to be a little anxious growing up in an unknown world. With so many confusing and potentially dangerous things in the world today, it would almost be unusual for a child not to be at least a little bit anxious.
But in some cases, a child's anxiety may be so extreme that they're missing out on other developmental opportunities. If your child is suffering from intense anxiety, they may need some type of child anxiety treatment. Some people choose to use anxiety medications for children. In this article, we'll explore the use of medications and share which medicines are considered most effective.
Stop Your Own Anxiety
Children pick up a great deal of their anxious tendencies from their parents. Do you suffer from anxiety? Find out with my free 7 minute anxiety test.
50% of Children With Anxiety Will Be Adults With Anxiety
Childhood anxiety is now considered a far more serious disorder than it was years ago. Children with anxiety appear to have roughly a 50% chance of becoming adults with anxiety. The theory that children simply grow out of it is no longer true, and now it's become more important than ever to monitor your child's anxiety levels.
My anxiety test is one of the tools that I use to help others learn more about their anxiety. But the key thing to remember is that while some anxiety is normal, all anxiety can be stressful for your child. Take your child's anxiety seriously to ensure that they develop anxiety free.
Medications Should Be A Last Resort
It should go without saying that medications should be only your last choice when it comes to your child's anxiety. Medications do have their place, but they also affect brain chemistry and when it comes to the development of a child, you want to leave their brain alone if possible.
There are plenty of non-medicinal ways to help your child with their anxiety. Medications aren't bad - there are many reason that medications may be valuable in controlling anxiety - but always make sure that you've exhausted other options before you decide to utilize modern medicine.
Remember, medications don't cure anxiety. They only prevent it from occurring while the medication is taken. Ideally, you need to teach your child better coping strategies so that they do not have to take medications forever.
What Child Anxiety Medications Are Safe?
All medications have side effects - especially mental health medicine - not to mention the potential risks to the way the brain utilizes neurotransmitters. But some anxiety medications are safer for children than others.
According to all modern experts, the anxiety drug that is best for children are those in the serotonin reuptake inhibitor class, also known as SSRIs. SSRIs are sometimes referred to as antidepressants, because they are more commonly prescribed to those with depression. But studies have shown that SSRIs are also valuable for treating childhood anxiety.
All SSRI use needs to be monitored and controlled by a doctor. Never give a child your own medicine without a doctor's permission. Some studies have shown that SSRIs can increase suicidal ideation in children. While this isn't common, it's still something that needs close professional monitoring. Drugs in this class include brand names such as:
It should be noted that even though these drugs are approved for childhood anxiety and fairly commonly used, they are also not yet as well studied as they have been in adults. Remember, anxiety medications are generally not recommended for children unless other options have been exhausted.
SSRIs are unlikely to cause dependency, though they should not be stopped abruptly. Other anxiety medications, like benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants may have some benefits, but safety research is sorely lacking. The body can also adapt to benzodiazepines to the point where they are no longer effective. Since children are starting these medications at such a young age, this can be a problem.
How to Get the Most From Your Child's Anxiety Medication
Remember, it is very important that you combine any type of medication with a long term treatment as well. Children need to learn coping skills in order to overcome anxiety as adults. Anxiety medications, while useful, do not teach children these skills - and in some cases may actually make it harder for your child to learn these skills in the future. Makes sure that you're also looking at non-medication options.
I've worked with many people that suffer from anxiety providing information on coping tools and anxiety reduction strategies. My anxiety test is a great place to start.
Click here to start the free test.
Vedantam, Shankar. Antidepressant makers withhold data on children. Washington Post (2004): A01.
Leo, Jonathan. The SSRI trials in children: disturbing implications for academic medicine. Ethical human psychology and psychiatry 8.1 (2006): 29.
Harris, Gardiner. FDA panel urges stronger warning on antidepressants. New York Times (2004).
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.