All Posts Tagged: anxiety disorders in children

Jerome Siegmeister, MD, MaED – Consult The Expert On How Virtual Schooling Is Affecting Children

The Center’s newest clinician, Dr. Jerome Siegmeister, MD, MaED, is an expert on the psychiatric concerns of children and adolescents. A former high school teacher, he has a unique perspective on how children learn and the societal skills they can only develop through social interaction with peers. Since the pandemic, what he has seen has left him genuinely concerned.

During these last two years, parents and kids have had to adapt to shut downs and periods of online learning. While some students do just fine with virtual classes, many more are struggling – not just with learning through an online format, but with the loss of the in-person connection with classmates. “Covid has really devastated these kids,” he says. “Though some children can do well in this environment, virtual learning causes an issue for most.”

“The virtual learning modality is basically a lecture modality,” he continues – and therein lies part of the problem. “What do you and I do when listening to a lecture? If we are honest, most of us listen to it in the background while doing other things, so we miss a lot of the information.”

“Children are no different,” he says. “From a developmental standpoint, it is clearly better for kids to attend in-person schooling, but the unfortunate reality is that we need to be worried about public health, as well. In many cases, virtual learning is all we have right now, but this isn’t workable for many kids.”

Loss of knowledge isn’t the only side effect the pandemic has had on the nation’s children. “Virtual classes have their place because kids need to be learning, one way or another, but it comes at a price,” he explains. “It is very obvious that our children’s socialization has been affected and will be for a long time to come.”

“At this point, we have lost at least eighteen months of socialization,” he says. “Society pushes the idea that we need others to validate us, so kids rely on social acceptance for much of their self-worth. Covid took away much of that.”

Even older teens are being challenged by this new world. “The pandemic has been very hard for kids who are transitioning to college,” he notes. “Life is drastically different for them, especially if they are having to do their first year of college virtually. They are missing out on the social aspects that help them adjust to college life.”

He is optimistic, though. For most kids who are struggling, “it isn’t too hard to stabilize them and they can do really well,” he says. “Counseling and working one on one with kids will make things better in the majority of cases.”

When working with children, Dr. Siegmeister believes in treating the whole person. Depending on the child’s individual needs, this may mean combining two or more treatment methods, such as using cognitive behavior therapy along with medical treatments if there is an underlying psychiatric concern. He also likes to take a team approach to treatment and frequently involves parents, teachers, or college faculty, so the child can achieve the quickest resolution of their symptoms.

As unlikely as it may sound, Dr. Siegmester says there is actually a silver lining to the pandemic. “Mental health is often swept under the rug,” he says, “but depression is now pretty pervasive in both children and adults and people recognize this. In fact, many so called “sick days” happen because the person is depressed and really needs to take a mental health day. The positive outcome from covid is that people are now much more aware of anxiety and depression because they’ve experienced it themselves. This means it has become much more acceptable to seek help.”

About Jerome Siegmesiter, MD, MaED. (Child And Adolescent Psychiatry / General Psychiatry)

Jerome Siegmeister, MD, MaED, is a South Florida Native. He has worked with clients of all ages, and believes that the whole person needs to be treated. Consequently, he evaluates all aspects of the situation, from medical to situational, to determine the best initial course. He has a background in both individual and group therapies, employing supportive, behavioral, and insight oriented approaches, as appropriate to best fit his client’s needs, as well as comfort with medical treatment of any underlying conditions that might manifest psychiatrically. He has significant experience in all forms of psychiatric issues, including mood symptoms, thought disorders, anxiety, phobias, attention deficits, behavioral issues, insomnia, compulsive disorders, emotional lability, substance abuse, and trauma.

Dr. Siegmeister graduated with his Bachelor’s from Florida International University, after which he spent a number of years teaching, and obtained a Masters from the University of South Florida in Career and Technical Education/Adult Education. Upon deciding to pursue medicine, he initially completed a Post Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Certificate program at the University of Miami, and then obtained his MD from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, staying there afterwards for his specialty training in Psychiatry, followed by a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, where he served as Chief Fellow, and was awarded with a Research Distinction. After training, he has worked providing Emergency care, with additional work in inpatient settings, both in mental health and as a consultant to medical units at multiple hospitals. He is currently Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in both general Psychiatry, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and by the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons in Psychiatry.

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Mood Disorders in Children

There is a plethora of information out there regarding mood disorders of all kinds. The public is becoming more and more educated about panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar mood disorder, and the like. But what many people still do not realize is that these disorders are not limited to adults.

A child may experience similar mood disorders, as well. In fact, 7-14% of children will experience an episode of major depression before the age of 15. Out of 100,000 adolescents, two to three thousand will have mood disorders, out of which 8-10 will commit suicide. It is for this reason that the symptoms of mood disorders in children should attract special attention.

Symptoms of mood disorders in children include:

  • Sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Despair
  • Dejection
  • Changes in appetite
  • Loss of interest
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hopelessness
  • Sense of inferiority
  • Exaggerated guilt
  • Feelings of incompetence
  • Inability to function effectively

Many children might have one or two of these symptoms at one time or another but it is the presence of several symptoms for an extended period that indicates a mood disorder. There are three levels of mood disorder in children:

  • Severe depression is present when the child has nearly all the symptoms and these symptoms almost always keep them from performing day to day activities.
  • Moderate depression occurs when a person has many symptoms that often limit their regular activities.
  • Mild depression is present when a child has some of the symptoms and it requires extra effort for them to do every day things.

If you or someone you know has a child who might be suffering from a mood disorder, it is important to seek help immediately. The mood disorder will be diagnosed through extensive interviews with the child and his or her caregivers. If a mood disorder is found, it is often treated through medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.

For more information about Mood Disorders in children , diagnostic steps, and therapy for the condition in the Delray Beach, Florida area, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders at 561-496-1094 or email them today.

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