Study identifies 3 effective treatments for childhood anxiety disorders

Oct 30, 2008

Treatment that combines a certain type of psychotherapy with an antidepressant medication is most likely to help children with anxiety disorders, but each of the treatments alone is also effective, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The study was published online Oct. 30, in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental disorders affecting children and adolescents. Untreated anxiety can undermine a child's success in school, jeopardize his or her relationships with family, and inhibit social functioning," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "This study provides strong evidence and reassurance to parents that a well-designed, two-pronged treatment approach is the gold standard, while a single line of treatment is still effective."

The Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Study (CAMS) randomly assigned 488 children ages 7 years to 17 years to one of four treatment options for a 12-week period:

-- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a specific type of therapy that, for this study, taught children about anxiety and helped them face and master their fears by guiding them through structured tasks;
-- The antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI);
-- CBT combined with sertraline;
-- pill placebo (sugar pill).

The children, recruited from six regionally dispersed sites throughout the United States, all had moderate to severe separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or social phobia. Many also had coexisting disorders, including other anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and behavior problems.

John Walkup, M.D., of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, and colleagues found that among those in combination treatment, 81 percent improved. Sixty percent in the CBT-only group improved, and 55 percent in the sertraline-only group improved. Among those on placebo, 24 percent improved. A second phase of the study will monitor the children for an additional six months.

"CAMS clearly showed that combination treatment is the most effective for these children. But sertraline alone or CBT alone showed a good response rate as well. This suggests that clinicians and families have three good options to consider for young people with anxiety disorders, depending on treatment availability and costs," said Walkup.

Results also showed that the treatments were safe. Children taking sertraline alone showed no more side effects than the children taking the placebo and few children discontinued the trial due to side effects. In addition, no child attempted suicide, a rare side effect sometimes associated with antidepressant medications in children.

CAMS findings echo previous studies in which sertraline and other SSRIs were found to be effective in treating childhood anxiety disorder. The study's results also add more evidence that high-quality CBT, with or without medication, can effectively treat anxiety disorders in children, according to the researchers.

"Further analyses of the CAMS data may help us predict who is most likely to respond to which treatment, and develop more personalized treatment approaches for children with anxiety disorders," concluded Philip C. Kendall, Ph.D., of Temple University, a senior investigator of the study. "But in the meantime, we can be assured that we already have good treatments at our disposal."

Source: NIH/National Institute of Mental Health

Explore further: Malaysia reports first Asian death from MERS virus

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Calming your dog's anxiety during noisy Fourth of July

Jul 02, 2013

Dog owners everywhere feel a pang of anxiety as the Fourth of July approaches. Will their pooch simply hide under the bed when fireworks go off or run for the hills? If you're the owner of a dog with noise ...

Recommended for you

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

9 hours ago

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

9 hours ago

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PepsiJuror
not rated yet Oct 30, 2008
The Pyschs who engaged in the "Testing" of children aged 7-17 should either be SHOT or thrown in jail for playing GOD with our children!!! What sane parent let their children get drugged with Zoloft!?!?

As you are aware, Psychiatry and psychology are unlike other branches of health and medicine. They do not adhere to the same rigorous objective standards for diagnosing, but are subjective, without a single biological test for any psychiatric disorder. There is poor agreement among mental health professionals, not only for diagnosing and ways to screen if there is anything to focus upon, but there is also poor agreement about the cause for all the disorders - often called %u201Cillnesses.%u201D Lastly, you know the mental health system has even poorer agreement as to the best treatment approach for the behaviors we label.

Thankfully the population is waking up to the fact you can't just take a pretty little pink pill as a panacea for your troubles.

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...