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Identifying Anxiety & Other Mental Health Issues in Children

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Among the psychological concerns for children, anxiety ranks only behind ADHD as the most prevalent issues that we see in our pediatric offices here at Preferred Medical Group. Dr. Ritu Chandra, our lead pediatrician, and founder of Preferred Medical Group, recently sat down with NBC 38’s Anika Allen in Columbus, Georgia to talk about these and other mental health issues that parents should pay attention to in their children.

Anika Allen: We talked about depression and suicide, but what are some other mental health situations or issues in children that we should be aware of or take notice of?

Dr. Chandra: I think the commonest one and the most talked about one obviously, is ADHD. I think that is kind of overly represented and maybe a little bit, being over diagnosed, because virtually every child who’s not performing well in school, somebody or the other will say, “ADHD, go get him checked out.”

Dr. Chandra: In my mind, I think the biggest, that really gets missed, number one is anxiety. Anxiety is very, very high in children, and the way anxiety manifests vary so much depending on the child’s age group. A young child, three or four years old, might be showing separation anxiety, and that’s the quintessential child who mom is dropping off to daycare and he is clinging to her legs, and people are trying to extract him mom.

Dr. Chandra: Later on, they develop generalized anxiety where they just worry about anything and everything. Everything. Then later comes the social anxiety, so when the child wants to fit in, but finds it hard to fit in.

Dr. Chandra: This is very, very commonly missed, and I really find it again very gratifying when I’m able to diagnose it and intervene and help the child. The other thing to remember is that all of these conditions tend to have a very heavy genetic penetration. That means, depending upon how strong is the family history, with one family member, or two, or more than two family members have a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, it really increases the likelihood of the child having a similar diagnosis.

Anika Allen: It could be genetic, sometimes.

Dr. Chandra: Of course. Actually, the most commonly believed in model today, is called the Bio-Pyscho-Social Model. Bio means the biology of the genetics. Psychology means each individual child’s personality, depending upon whether they’re resilient or they’re not. Socially, whether the child has a good support system in the past. Was there ever any history of abuse, neglect, bullying, or molestation, or hardships in life, including food and security, or economic hardships. All of these factors come in together and give us the final diagnosis.

Anika Allen: Thank you so much for joining us. Is there anything else you want to add about mental health in children, or anything else?

Dr. Chandra: I call it the iceberg phenomenon where we’re only seeing the tip of the ice berg. There’s so much more that’s going on. The more awareness there is among the parents and the school officials, and the pediatricians, the more we’re gong to diagnose the kids and the sooner we diagnosis them, the sooner we start to treat them, the better are the outcomes.

Anika Allen: One more thing, before you came in, we discussed denial of depression. Can you just touch on that for parents. You’ve said you’ve come across yourself about parents who have been in denial, complete denial, that their kids could even be depressed. “They’re too young. They have everything.” Can you talk about that, briefly?

Dr. Chandra: It’s a very common phenomenon, Anika. I think again it’s multi-factorial. One is the parent just doesn’t want their child to be depressed, even though they are seeing it, they’re in denial. Then there’s the additional factor of stigma. Even today in today’s society, mental health unfortunately does carry a big stigma attached to it. There’s this shyness and “I wish my child didn’t have it.” Or a lot of times a parent has been through it all their life and they just wish that their child would not go through it, so they try and stay in denial. That is big, and we are constantly trying to overcome that with better education and awareness for the parents and the grownups around the child.

Anika Allen: Thank you so much for joining us. Every time you come on, you bring really good points. You hit every point that I ask. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. Chandra: It’s been a pleasure, Anika. Thank you.

End of Interview.

If you have questions about this or any other topic please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Preferred Medical Group is currently accepting new pediatric patients at our offices in Columbus / Phenix CityFort Mitchell, and Opelika. In addition to sick and wellness visits, we offer Behavioral Health counselling and ADHD assessments for children. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us directly or schedule your next visit through our convenient online appointment system.

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