Objective: There are insufficient data on generalized anxiety disorder in children and adolescents. Symptoms and comorbidity of generalized anxiety disorder are described as a function of age, gender, and comorbidity in a consecutive series of referred children and adolescents.
Method: One hundred fifty-seven outpatients (97 males and 60 females, 50 children and 107 adolescents, age range 7-18 years, mean age 13.4 +/- 2.7 years) were diagnosed as having generalized anxiety disorder, using historical information and a structured clinical interview (Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents-Revised) according to the DSM-IV.
Results: Feelings of tension, apprehensive expectations, negative self-image, need for reassurance, irritability, and physical complaints were reported in more than 75% of the participants. Differences in symptomatology according to age and gender were nonsignificant. Depressive disorder was the most frequent comorbidity, being present in 56% of the patients. Comorbid anxiety disorders were present in about 75% of the patients, and 21% showed externalizing disorders. Subjects with comorbid depression had less anxiety comorbidity, subjects with comorbid separation anxiety disorder had higher rates of panic disorder, and subjects with comorbid externalizing disorders had higher rates of bipolar disorder.
Conclusions: Referred children and adolescents with generalized anxiety disorder are heavily symptomatic and have frequent comorbidity. A more precise definition of the clinical picture may help early diagnosis and prevention of superimposed mental disorders.