DENVER, CO -- (Marketwire) -- 01/29/13 -- Stress among children and adolescents is on the rise, and mental health professionals are seeing the impact as more families seek treatment for their children and adolescents to address stress-initiated behavioral illnesses such as eating disorders. At Eating Recovery Center, an international center providing comprehensive treatment for eating disorders, more than 20 percent of the Center's total inquiries for treatment in 2012 were for children or adolescents ages 17 and under, of which 35 percent related to boys and girls ages 10 to 14.
Children today are growing up in what experts say is a more stressful environment than ever before.
"As an outcome of globalization and the information age, children and adolescents are more aware of their surroundings than they ever have been," said Ovidio Bermudez, MD, FAAP, FSAHM, FAED, CEDS, chief medical officer and medical director of child and adolescent services at Eating Recovery Center. "This access and exposure can pose serious challenges as children and teens are inundated with fear-inducing global news and anxiety-causing social media interactions."
Studies confirm this increase in stress among children and adolescents. Forty-five percent of teens (ages 13-17) say they were more worried in 2009 than they had been the previous year, according to a 2009 report from the American Psychological Association (APA). The study also found that 27 percent of tweens (ages 8-12) and 39 percent of teens reported eating too much or too little due to stress. However, only 28 percent of parents thought their teen's stress had increased and a mere 8 percent reported being aware of their child's eating issues.
Due to the connection between anxiety and stress-initiated mental illnesses like eating disorders, Eating Recovery Center encourages parents to take proactive steps to understand the impact of stress on their children, identify events and situations that may induce stress and recognize patterns of thinking and behavior that may indicate anxiety:
1. Childhood stress generally fits into one of four categories: personal, interpersonal, interfamilial and global (a stress reaction to national or world news).
2. Children of all ages are vulnerable to the effects of stress. Although they may internalize stress differently, children at different ages -- from toddlers to teenagers -- can all suffer from anxiety.
3. There is no universal response to stress. Children at different developmental stages and under different life circumstances will respond to stress differently.
4. The burden of stress is cumulative. Just like adults, children and adolescents can only "take so much," and multiple stressors can become increasingly difficult for a young person to manage.
5. Even positive change can be stressful. For children and adolescents, change can be difficult, even perceived positive changes such as starting at a new school or joining a new sports team.
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