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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 25, Issue 2

New Therapy Helps Children Wallop Their Worries

Children can overcome intense anxiety by being encouraged to do just what they fear most


Michael once even considered his siblings unsanitary. But after he was taught to sit with his anxiety until it passed, his worry waned, enabling him to eat with his family again.


PJ LOUGHRAN

When I first met Julia, she was the most anxious, depressed child I had ever seen. Twelve years old, she had stopped going to school and seldom left her apartment. Her eyes were big with fright. When she spoke, it was in a very soft, crackly whisper, and she would stammer, as if struggling to find words.

Julia was terrified that anyone who might see her would know instantly that something was wrong with her. When she did build up the courage to venture out, she would open the door and peek out; if she saw a neighbor in the hallway, she would close the door and wait until the coast was clear. She was not able to see friends or go anywhere comfortably, and her confinement made her feel hopeless.

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