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ASU creates program to combat anxiety in kids

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-09 13:53:31-05

PHOENIX  — Anxiety is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of young people diagnosed with anxiety is increasing.

According to the CDC, 7.1% of children between 3 and 17 years old have diagnosed anxiety. But several Valley psychologists told ABC15 that number is low. They say anxiety is under-diagnosed and under-treated.

Betty Caratachea has been working with children and families dealing with behavioral and mental issues for 16 years. She's a program manager at Chicanos Por La Causa's Parenting Arizona. She said she's seen an increase in anxiety cases in kids.

"In school-aged kids, you are seeing more bullying and kids trying to fit and not fitting with what the norm is in their schools," said Caratachea.

Caratachea said the official diagnosed anxiety numbers may be low because often times, parents don't know what symptoms to look for.

"They present anxiety in so many ways. Kids can pick at their skin, they can have outbursts, they can talk really fast, they can withdraw, even little kids, they can withdraw from everything," said Caratachea.

Caratachea knows first-hand what it's like -- two of her sons were diagnosed with anxiety at an early age.

"If you're validated, you can help them better because you know where this is going. And when you know definitely what's going on, you change your approach. And you have to approach situations differently, especially if they're having problems with their emotions," she said.

Researchers at Arizona State University are trying to tackle anxiety with a program called Compass for Courage. The early intervention and prevention program is for kids 8 to 13 years old, and the goal is to prevent chronic anxiety by using game-like activities and role playing. It can be used by schools, counselors and psychologists.

Learn more about Compass for Courage.

Resources for parents:

Data and Statistics on Child Mental Health

Anxiety Types & Help

Understanding Anxiety in Children and Teens

Relaxation Techniques for Children

Chicanos Por La Cause Parenting Programs