This page will help provide some guidelines to help you understand anxiety medication for children, and also, help you decide when it might be necessary to put your child on medication.
Generally, my particular advice to parents is to try a good therapist who uses a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and play therapy if your child is young. This should be tried prior to medication, except in extreme circumstances where child's functioning is seriously impaired and must be quickly gotten under control. When evaluating whether or not to use child anxiety medication for children, you can consider the following issues below.
If the answer to all these questions is yes, and your child’s symptoms have not improved significantly, it may be time to consider child anxiety medication. If your child’s symptoms have improved but continue despite therapy to interfere with success at home, school, or with friends, you may also want to consider medication. This is a deeply personal decision, and no one can make it but you.
Is CBT the only therapy that works??
Keep in mind that although we know CBT works it may be somewhat difficult to use with young children. A three year old will not be capable of participating in traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. It is also important to remember that other techniques may work also. CBT is not the only therapy, it is just the best researched therapy. We know children who receive it generally make improvements. The important thing is that you feel your child has received the benefit of good therapy prior to trying medication. A good child therapist will make use of a combination of techniques such as art and play therapy and will combine these with work with you the parent, to help work with your child. Click here to learn more about therapy with children who have anxiety.
What Anxiety Medication for Children is available?
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibiters (SSRI's), Tricyclic Antidepressents(TCA's), and Benzodiazepines
Even though I’m not a psychiatrist, I can read and understand the research, and so can you. It's crucial for parents to be educated and understand the medicine choices your doctor makes. The most up to date research on anxiety medicine for children at this time shows that SSRI's can be successful at helping anxious children. Unfortunately, SSRI’S have been given a black box warning for depressed children and adolescents. SSRI’s have been shown to increase depressive symptoms, including suicidal ideation, in a small percent of these children and adolescents. Also there have been no research studies done on the long term effects of SSRIS on anxious children (AACAP OFFICIAL ACTION Clinical Report, February 1, 2007).
Here are some of SSRI's
Only a doctor can prescribe and advise you on child anxiety medicine, but you can be informed enough to ask questions about SSRI’S or any other choices of medications.
A doctor may prescribe something other than an SSRI, or in combination with an SSRI as a child anxiety medication. If your child’s doctor makes a different choice, ask why.
There are two other classes of drugs utilized to treat child and adolescent anxiety. Tricyclic Antidepressants ( TCA’s) and benzodiazepines. TCA’s generally have more serious side effects and need to be monitored more closely . ( (AACAP OFFICIAL ACTION Clinical Report, February 1, 2007) .
Educate Yourself and Your Child
If you and your doctor have decided to try a child anxiety medication, carefully monitor your child for any changes in their behavior. I also recommend children be told medication is being prescribed, regardless of how young they are, and that they know the names and doses of their medications. Parents need to check in regularly with their child when medication is prescribed to get the child’s opinion of how they feel and how it may be helping or hurting.
Here are some questions to ask your doctor about your childs medication.
This page does not apply to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD). These diagnoses require different consideration when examining questions about medication (AACAP OFFICIAL ACTION Clinical Report, February 1, 2007)
AACAP OFFICIAL ACTION Clinical Report. (February 1, 2007). Practice Parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with anxiety disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolesecent Psychiatry , 267-283.
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Medical information obtained from our website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.