Anxiety is a debilitating mental illness, afflicting nearly 40 million adults and 8 million children and teenagers in the U.S. If left untreated, anxiety can get daunting for an individual and can greatly affect their mental and physical health. However, not many people, either children or adults, are forthcoming about their mental health struggles for fear of being ostracized.
Adolescents suffering from mental health disorders are hard on themselves and need constant reassurance severely impacting their overall quality of life. To rectify this situation, it is important that children receive treatment from a certified mental health professional. At times, even after treatment, children are unable to overcome their anxiety disorders. For such children, it is important to practice alternate treatment options.
One such treatment option was recently suggested by the researchers at the Florida International University’s Center for Children and Families. They found that assisting children struggling with anxiety in polishing their attention could prove positive for their recovery. The study employed computer-based attention training for managing the anxiety of children and adolescents who did not respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is the most extensive form of evidence-based therapy used for treating anxiety.
Computer-based attention training helpful for anxious children
The authors discovered that helping CBT-resistant anxious children enhance their capacity to concentrate and shift their attention led to alleviation of anxiety symptoms. Interestingly, nearly 50 percent of the participants did not meet the anxiety benchmark subsequent to four weeks of the alternate treatment. This is the first–of–a–kind study which explored the effectiveness of an alternate treatment that provided relief to about 30 to 50 percent of the children who did not respond positively to CBT. According to the principal author Jeremy Pettit, owing to the significant impairment in functioning and distress associated with anxiety, there is a dire need to explore alternative treatment options for this vulnerable population.
The researchers enrolled 64 participants in the age group of 7 to 16 years in the study. Each participant was selected after they had undergone 12 to 14 sessions of CBT. The researchers emphasized that it was important to observe the treatment success closely and arrange for additional treatment if a child was unresponsive to CBT.
Reduction in anxiety due to attention training
Two types of computer-based attention training were provided to the participants. The first model, called the attention bias modification training, comprised of training attention away from threatening stimuli and towards neutral stimuli. In the second model, called the attention control training, attention was simultaneous and equally trained to both threatening and neutral stimuli. A comparable anxiety reduction was registered in both the forms of attention training.
Pettit emphasized that attention training appeared to be a promising tool in treating children who responded poorly to CBT. However, there is a need to conduct additional research to get a profound understanding of how these attention training programs lead to a reduction in anxiety. The present research was sponsored by the NIMH and was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Road to recovery
Since anxiety disorders are a curable condition, a timely therapeutic intervention not only improves a child’s childhood but also ensures them a healthy adulthood. Consequently, when a child is living through any unfamiliar or upsetting fear or worry that persists for long, one should immediately consult a mental health professional for determining the anxiety disorder. In addition, one should also provide comfort and support to their child grappling with the anxiety disorder and try to understand them. The unconditional love and support from parents assist children in recovering from the illness with ease.
If you suspect your child to be struggling with an anxiety disorder or any other mental health disorder, do not hesitate to contact the Florida Helpline for Anxiety. We offer comprehensive evidence-based anxiety treatment programs, tailored to suit each patient’s needs at our anxiety treatment centers. Call our 24/7 anxiety treatment helpline 855-920-9834 or chat online with our experts to gain access to the finest anxiety disorders treatment center.