Ruslanshug Getty Images/iStockphoto
Ruslanshug Getty Images/iStockphoto

Editorials

Early intervention for anxiety a must

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

July 01, 2016 06:36 PM

UPDATED July 06, 2016 02:09 PM

Imagine your front door. The one you always lock before leaving. But for some reason today, Did I lock the door? popped into your head.

Your body responds with anxiety as you worry about whether you locked the door or not.

Maybe you call a friend to check, reassure yourself or reason it doesn’t matter, then your anxiety goes away.

But what if it doesn’t? What if anxiety gets worse? What if you can’t focus because all you can think about is someone breaking into your home.

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Anxiety tenses your muscles while making it hard to concentrate on anything.

It becomes a Herculean task to finish your day.

It’s hard enough to deal with this kind of anxiety as an adult, but as an adolescent, anxiety can lead to depression, substance abuse, suicidal behavior and educational underachievement.

Kids can miss out on crucial social experiences and possibly develop problems like obsessive compulsive disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Early intervention is crucial, but how does one know what to look for?

Anxiety can wreak havoc on a person, both mentally and physically, while masking itself behind other symptoms.

Jeffrey Gagne, University of Texas at Arlington assistant professor of psychology, has a pretty good idea about where to start looking.

Gagne, along with other authors, has published “The Shared Etiology of Attentional Control and Anxiety: An Adolescent Twin Study,” which researches the correlation between attention control and anxiety symptoms.

His study used self-ratings and mother ratings to determine how low ability to pay attention can be an early factor to four different anxiety categories.

“If we were able to measure the attention control of children when they were younger and provide some intervention to improve attention, we might be able to reduce the risk of anxiety,” he said in an email.

Gagne’s study is more evidence that one of the best defenses against mental health disorders is early intervention.

As they work on mental health reform, Texas lawmakers should pay attention to possible access to early intervention for children.

It would be one huge step in lessening the severity of mental disorders in future generations.