For the first time, task force recommends anxiety screenings for children as young as 8

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that screening in primary care can help identify anxiety and depression in older children and teens who are not showing symptoms.

This week it released new recommendations calling for screening for anxiety in children and teens who are 8 to 18 years old and screening for major depressive disorder in those who are 12 to 18 years old.

"So it's very important because of its public health importance," Task Force member Dr. Lori Pbert said. "We know that anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States, in children and adolescents."

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This is the first time the Task Force has made a recommendation on screening kids and teens for anxiety. Doctors said the goal for the screening to happen when other questions are asked during a routine visit.

"Just like we have our blood pressure taken and our heart rate taken, having a mental health check should be just as any important part of our primary care as any other physical condition," Dr. Pbert said.

Tampa Bay area doctors said the earlier screenings will help with mental health treatment and resources available. 

"The earlier we can identify anxiety content in children and adolescents, the more able we are to appropriately diagnose and treat those concerns sooner so that we avoid them becoming lifelong difficulties for children and adolescents as they grow into an adult," Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein with Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital said.

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They're preventative measures that will help families now and later.

"When we can arm kids and parents with effective strategies for dealing with anxiety and worry, they can take those strategies into the rest of their lives and don't have to suffer in silence and don't have to suffer forever. It's so powerful," Dr. Wendy Rice said.

The task force said more research should be done on screening for anxiety in children who are 7 years or younger. These recommendations are for children and teens who are not showing any signs or symptoms of these conditions. 

Anyone expressing concerns or showing symptoms should be connected to care.