Ep. 67: Your Child’s Anxiety: When to Worry with Dr. John Piacentini

Feb 8, 2022 | 0 comments

We know that anxiety is common and many of us have experienced some level of anxiety. But there are many myths and misunderstandings about anxiety that could be preventing a child from getting the care and treatment they need. One of the myths you might have heard is that “kids will grow out of it.” While stress and fear are normal components of childhood development, 80% of children who are experiencing problematic anxiety are not getting treatment.

Dr. John Piacentini joins me today to help us understand what anxiety is, how it differs from stress, and how to help your child if they are struggling with anxiety. For children and adults alike, stress levels continue to be high as we are still dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic. But there are things we can do to validate a child’s feelings and help them through mild anxiety. And for those who are experiencing severe anxiety, Dr. Piacentini explains different types of treatment and support that can positively impact the trajectory of a child’s development.


Show Notes:

[2:25] – There have been and continue to be concerns about the impact of anxiety on childhood development.

[3:26] – Stress is a physical reaction in response to something difficult or even exciting.

[4:29] – When stress becomes chronic, it is cause for concern.

[5:04] – Alternatively, anxiety is related to fear. Fear is a response to something that is threatening.

[6:31] – Dr. Piacentini gives an example to show the difference and similarities between stress, anxiety, and fear.

[7:58] – There are times in development when anxiety and fear are normal.

[10:30] – The intensity of the anxiety and anxious behaviors is something that is looked at and is cause for concern.

[12:04] – Avoiding the thing the child is fearful of can intensify the anxiety.

[13:34] – Dr. Piacentini explains the difference between positive and negative reinforcement and how each kind impacts behavior.

[15:43] – A parent’s nature is to want to protect their child from stress, but Dr. Piacentini reminds us that their independence needs to develop.

[17:05] – Missing out on social situations has a negative impact on anxiety.

[18:51] – There are higher levels of mental health issues associated with the pandemic. Children with anxiety are even more sensitive.

[20:10] – When schools closed, many children with anxiety and OCD felt validated, but the return to school has caused more stress, fear, and anxiety.

[21:30] – Avoid having young children watch the news and catastrophizing the pandemic and provide as much structure as you can.

[23:26] – Don’t accommodate the anxiety.

[25:15] – Dr. Piacentini describes Cognitive Behavior Therapy and discusses how effective it can be.

[28:50] – About 10% of kids meet criteria for problematic anxiety. Only 2 out of 10 are getting the treatment they need.

[30:01] – A common physical symptom of anxiety are frequent headaches and stomachaches.

[31:48] – The mission of UCLA CARES is to increase awareness and to help identify early signs of anxiety.


About Our Guest:

Dr. John Piacentini is a board-certified clinical child and adolescent psychologist and Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences in the David Geffen School of Medicine and Semel Institute for Neuroscience at UCLA.  He is also the Director of the UCLA Child OCD, Anxiety and Tic Disorders Program and the Center for Child Anxiety, Resilience, Education and Support. Dr. Piacentini’s research focuses on the development of science-based treatments for child anxiety, OCD, tic, and related disorders. Through UCLA CARES, he and his team have implemented a number of school and community-based education and prevention programs to reduce the burden of child anxiety. Dr. Piacentini has authored over 300 scientific publications, including seven books, and his research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and other leading foundations and philanthropic organizations. Dr. Piacentini is a frequent lecturer, and with his team has trained hundreds of mental health clinicians around the world in cognitive-behavior therapy and other evidence-based treatments and provided care to over 1000 children, adolescents, and their families.


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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.