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How does cognitive behavioral therapy treat anxiety disorders in children?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a therapy designed to correct patterns of negative thoughts or behavior, is the best confirmed treatment for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. Its effectiveness has been shown in studies lasting as long as four years. A common method is graduated exposure to frightening objects or situations, with rewards for success in facing fears. Young children with phobias, for example, can be placed near the feared object and allowed to do something reassuring and enjoyable like eating or playing with a favorite toy. Older children can be shown how to use deep breathing or muscle relaxation, or be taught to talk themselves out of self-defeating and fear-provoking thoughts. Another technique is modeling -- asking the anxious child to emulate the therapist or another child who shows no fear.

Cognitive and behavioral methods often work best in groups, which provide shy and fearful children with opportunities for making friends, increasing self-confidence, and trying out new kinds of behavior.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.