09/29/2015 12:58 pm ET

There May Be A Way To Prevent Anxiety Disorders In Children

Yet another reason to love therapy.
Rebecca Nelson via Getty Images

Kids who have at least one parent with anxiety disorder may be up to seven times more likely than others to suffer anxiety disorder themselves. But according to a small new study, preventative therapy may be able to reduce their risk

A research team led by University of Connecticut psychiatry professor Golda Ginsburg analyzed 136 families in which at least one parent had a diagnosed anxiety disorder and at least one child in the 6 to 13 age range hadn't been diagnosed.

Half of the participating families underwent eight therapy sessions, while the other half were given a comprehensive list of anxiety disorder symptoms but no other intervention.

During therapy, Ginsberg and her team not only offered strategies for children to learn how to face their fears, they also helped parents learn to recognize warning signs.

A year later, the children, who were predisposed toward anxiety disorders, were assessed for signs of anxiety. The kids who had preemptively gone to therapy were less likely to display symptoms of an anxiety disorder than those who did not attend sessions.

In total, 31 percent of the children who did not go to therapy were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder after one year, compared with just 5 percent of the children from the therapy group.

The study suggests there may be a powerful advantage in being proactive when it comes to mental health. While many people associate the condition with adults, anxiety disorders are also one of the most prevalent pediatric psych conditions. If preventative measures are working, there may be a way to get that number -- as well as the number of adults -- significantly lower. The findings are heartening in a world where nearly 40 million American adults experience anxiety, yet only around one-third of people receive treatment.

The researchers will continue to study the same families in an effort to glean more information about how the condition can be prevented, NPR reported.  


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