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Childhood Depression and Anxiety in the Age of COVID-19 

Childhood Depression and Anxiety in the Age of COVID-19 

Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT

Member Since 2008

Dr. Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT is the Founder and Executive Director of the Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders in Los Angeles, California and a Clinical Assistant Professor (V) at the USC Keck School of Medicine. The Westwood Institute is often called an intensive center of 'last resort' for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), and other anxiety disorders. By integrating treatment methods with a multidisciplinary team of experts, Dr. Gorbis has brought hundreds of people with prior treatment failures to normal functioning. Her expertise was prominently featured on programs, such as "20/20," "60 Minutes," and "MTV's True Life.”  She has given over 170 conference presentations on topics related to her intensive treatment of OCD, BDD, and anxiety disorders around the world.

Dr. Gorbis and ADAA

"Back in 1994, I applied for a poster presentation for the ADAA annual conference based on my observations that there is a certain group of patients whose onset of OCD began after a certain level of trauma/PTSD. ADAA's committee accepted my presentation for a symposium which was supervised and led by one of the leading experts in the world on OCD and PTSD: Dr. Edna Foa (also an ADAA member). 

Once the poster was accepted, an unbelievable buzz went through the OCD and anxiety disorder community at UCLA. This incredible association not only accepted my paper but also found it to be important enough to be presented at the conference. Had it not been for that day at ADAA, my career could not have skyrocketed the way it did, and I would not have achieved the same levels of success. The acceptance that I felt at that conference and the sense of exuberance that rushed over me means more to me than any other peaks that I have experienced in my career. Not even the appearances on documentaries and TV shows nor the multiple awards I received could surpass the moment my supervisor passed a quiet remark that today marked the day I was accepted within the anxiety disorders community. Ever since then, I have given hundreds of presentations, and I have never missed one with the ADAA conference.

For me, ADAA was the first step in my professional journey and helped me gain the confidence to step onto other big and bright stages later in my career. I believe that ADAA can be that same stepping-stone for other young professionals. ADAA offers an incredible professional stage for anyone looking to begin their career."

Childhood Depression and Anxiety in the Age of COVID-19 

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children and anxiety and depression and Covid

Being a child was difficult enough before the pandemic. With the rise of standardized tests and increasing pressure on students to do well academically, children and adolescents are constantly inundated with homework in an effort to ensure they keep up with the standards of their schools. Many come into school with significant disadvantages such as food insecurity, poverty, and traumatic family backgrounds. According to Feeding America, a non-profit organization whose mission is to combat food insecurity and hunger in the United States, an estimated thirteen million children go without regular meals. When children go hungry on a regular basis, this can cause social, behavioral, and developmental issues such as language and motor skill impairment, development of anxiety and depression, and chronic illness. (Weinreb et al., 2002. 

According to an article by Courtney et al. (2021), anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues among children and adolescents under the age of eighteen. The COVID-19 pandemic has been identified as a significant factor in the deterioration of mental health in children, but the long-term effects of COVID-19 on children's mental health has yet to be seen. Some of these factors are not because of the virus itself, as deaths resulting from the coronavirus are very low among children; instead, governmental policies on social isolation and school shutdowns as a result of the pandemic are what has contributed to the development of anxiety and depression-related disorders such as hypochondria, obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, and social phobia or social anxiety disorder. Another study by Bignardi et al. (2021) conducted in the United Kingdom has shown that family stability is another contributing factor to how children and adolescents process their emotions. If they feel that they cannot speak to their parents about how they feel, it can cause their existing conditions to worsen.

Despite all this, there are some things that can be done to address childhood anxiety and depression. The return to in-person learning has been a great start and you can read my previous blog post on the benefits of in-person education for young children and how parents can help with health-related anxiety. One of the best strategies for parents is to have honest conversations with their children about the future. The future of education, work, school, and social lives are uncertain, a frightening prospect that has affected people of all ages. Having an open conversation with children in which you discuss what frightens you, how you have been feeling over the past year, and what we can or cannot expect teaches children the importance of being emotionally available. As previously stated, opening up communication with your children is critical in assessing the mental health of your child and knowing whether they may need therapeutic intervention. It is also advisable to encourage playdates with children their own age, whether it is in-person or virtually. As children return to school, they will be able to resume some part of their social lives that was interrupted by the beginning of the pandemic and will need to reestablish connections with their peers. This will help them feel more comfortable in school and at home if they have strong social support from their friends and family.

The pandemic is not over, but that doesn't mean our children can or should be denied the education and social support they need. We must do what we can to keep them safe, healthy, and on track to a bright future.

Special thanks to Rebecca Braverman for her assistance in researching and writing this post.

Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT

Member Since 2008

Dr. Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT is the Founder and Executive Director of the Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders in Los Angeles, California and a Clinical Assistant Professor (V) at the USC Keck School of Medicine. The Westwood Institute is often called an intensive center of 'last resort' for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), and other anxiety disorders. By integrating treatment methods with a multidisciplinary team of experts, Dr. Gorbis has brought hundreds of people with prior treatment failures to normal functioning. Her expertise was prominently featured on programs, such as "20/20," "60 Minutes," and "MTV's True Life.”  She has given over 170 conference presentations on topics related to her intensive treatment of OCD, BDD, and anxiety disorders around the world.

Dr. Gorbis and ADAA

"Back in 1994, I applied for a poster presentation for the ADAA annual conference based on my observations that there is a certain group of patients whose onset of OCD began after a certain level of trauma/PTSD. ADAA's committee accepted my presentation for a symposium which was supervised and led by one of the leading experts in the world on OCD and PTSD: Dr. Edna Foa (also an ADAA member). 

Once the poster was accepted, an unbelievable buzz went through the OCD and anxiety disorder community at UCLA. This incredible association not only accepted my paper but also found it to be important enough to be presented at the conference. Had it not been for that day at ADAA, my career could not have skyrocketed the way it did, and I would not have achieved the same levels of success. The acceptance that I felt at that conference and the sense of exuberance that rushed over me means more to me than any other peaks that I have experienced in my career. Not even the appearances on documentaries and TV shows nor the multiple awards I received could surpass the moment my supervisor passed a quiet remark that today marked the day I was accepted within the anxiety disorders community. Ever since then, I have given hundreds of presentations, and I have never missed one with the ADAA conference.

For me, ADAA was the first step in my professional journey and helped me gain the confidence to step onto other big and bright stages later in my career. I believe that ADAA can be that same stepping-stone for other young professionals. ADAA offers an incredible professional stage for anyone looking to begin their career."

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