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Published: Wednesday, 12/5/2012

University of Toledo center seeks children to take part in anxiety study

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If your child’s fears and anxieties go beyond typical childhood worries, the University of Toledo’s Center for the Study of Anxiety Disorders and Depression would like to hear from you.

The center is recruiting children ages 7 to 14 to take part in a study with their parents that involves at-home, evidence-based treatment of anxiety disorders. The center is looking for children who have specific phobias, refuse to attend school, are afraid to be alone, experience panic attacks, have obsessive and/or compulsive behavior, are fearful after a trauma, or are frequent worriers.

Laura Seligman, a licensed psychologist who is the primary investigator for the study, said that while some fears or worries are normal for young children, others are indicative of a bigger issue. Toddlers may become upset to be temporarily separated from their parents, for example, but school-age children should not.

“A child who’s 7 or 8 but has a hard time going to school because he or she is afraid to be away from Mom or Dad, or sometimes not even going to school but something like just being in another room from Mom and Dad,” Ms. Seligman explained. “At a certain age, children start to want to go have sleepovers, and these children can’t because they’re afraid that something terrible may happen to Mom and Dad, and they’ll never get to see them again.”

Other children have specific fears — they’re afraid of thunderstorms or animals — and those worries prevent them from going outside or to a friend’s house because a dog might be there.

Fears and anxieties can be “difficult for adults to deal with, but children are also trying to learn,” Ms. Seligman said. “They’re at school trying to learn new things, so problems with anxiety can really interfere with school work or making friends.”

Studies indicate that between 8 percent and 13 percent of all children in the United States will develop an anxiety disorder at some point. “Anxiety disorders are very common and tend to occur very early in life,” Ms. Seligman said. “A lot of adults who have anxiety disorders actually had anxiety disorders as children.”

For more information about the study or to see if your child might be eligible, call the center at 419-530-2740.

The professor said a staff member will screen a potential participant on the phone, and if it looks like the child might be appropriate for the study, the child would come in to the center for a thorough assessment, which is free. If the family qualifies for the study, members would undergo a 14-week, at-home treatment plan.

“There have been several studies that have shown cognitive behavioral therapy works with children with anxiety disorders, but not a lot of people are trained in this,” she said. “We want to see if we can get more children to the type of treatment that works.”

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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