Treatment for children with anxiety disorders

For children with anxiety disorders, playing or even talking to other children can be a struggle. Prescription drugs are often used to treat adolescents, but most drugs haven’t been tested in kids. Now one drug studied on children may offer hope for the future.

Clemens Mayer likes to play with his little brother and enjoys time with his mom, Rosemary. However, the eight-year-old wasn’t always easy-going. “He was just very unhappy. He didn’t have a lot of friends,” says Rosemary.

He shunned affection and worried a lot, especially in the car. Rosemary quotes Clemens asking, “What do you mean directions? Well, you have directions? You don’t know where you going?”

Dr. Moira Rynn, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with the University of Pennsylvania Mood & Anxiety Disorders Program in Philadelphia, says therapy can help some children with anxiety disorders. Others, like Clemens, need medication to overcome their worries. The problem is few drugs have been tested on kids. Dr. Rynn studied the drug Zoloft.

Zoloft raises the levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood. “Pretty much 90 percent of the kids that were on the medication had significant reduction in symptoms,” says Dr. Rynn.

Research shows kids worried less, had fewer headaches and slept better. “It makes a big difference in the kids’ lives that I’ve treated. Some of these kids had been in therapy for several years and were not improving,” says Dr. Rynn.

One drawback, kids with moderate to severe anxiety may still have minor anxiety even after taking the drug. Zoloft can not cure Clemens’ shyness, but it has helped him feel better about himself and others.

That means everything to his mom.

While some kids did experience stomach upset, Zoloft was tolerated better than expected. It’s approved for depression and children with obsessive compulsive disorder. Zoloft can be given to young children. How young is up to your doctor.

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