Children Should Face Their Fears

October 30, 2008
Sean Johnson

Helping children face their fears may be more productive than focusing on other techniques to help them manage their anxieties.

Researchers at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which runs through Sunday, have reported that “helping children face their fears may be more productive than focusing on other techniques to help them manage their anxieties. The research “identified similarities between cognitive behavioral therapy administered in a clinical practice and protocols recommended in common treatment manuals” and also showed that, as children confronted their fears, their ability to function increased. In addition, the study showed that “children were able to complete exercises exposing them to their fears much earlier than suggested in the treatment manuals” and that “the more children focused on other techniques for managing their anxieties, however, the less improvement they showed in functioning.

Stephen Whiteside, PhD, from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, noted that more research still needs to be done in regards to treatment options for childhood anxiety. Dr. Whiteside also said that, although treatment manuals suggest that children face their fears late in the treatment process for childhood anxiety, shorter treatment that began earlier exposure than suggested seemed to improve children’s ability to function.

The research was presented this past Wednesday by Jennifer Vande Voort, MD, and Stephen Whiteside, PhD, both of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in a presentation entitled “Exposure Therapy for Childhood Anxiety in Clinical Practice Versus an Empirically Supported Manual.”

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