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Health and Medicine

Kent State and Akron Children's Hospital study childhood anxiety
Researchers are testing families to figure out what causes the disorders

Maranda Shrewsberry

Kent State University and Akron Children’s Hospital are teaming up to find out what causes anxiety disorders in kids.  The disorders affect one in eight children, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Dr. Sumru Bilge-Johnson of Akron Children’s is co-investigator in the study, which will focus on children with risk factors that lead to obsessive compulsive disorder, hair-pulling and other anxiety disorders. The researchers will look at physical and environmental clues.

Bilge-Johnson wants to help people recognize the signs of the disorders.

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“They can start quite early in childhood, but they can go unrecognized or under-diagnosed [or] they can come into treatment in later phases," she says. "We first want to make a study about it so it can be more known and early diagnoses is very important for these disorders because early treatment brings better prognosis.”

After interviews, children involved in the study will complete computer tasks and other forms. About two weeks later, parents will complete the same computer tasks their children did earlier.

Kent State psychologist Christopher Flessner is the principal investigator of the study. He says there’s little research on children with anxiety disorders.

Flessner expects  family influences will be key in how anxiety manifests itself.


Flessner's hypothesis
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“Kids with OCD or kids who pull their hair would fall into sort of one group – that is their parents would kind of behave . . . similarly to the child’s symptoms and the kids would perform similarly on those neuropsychological tasks – the computer tasks – compared to the kids with other anxiety disorders,” he says. 

Flessner plans to recruit for the study for the next five years.

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