Child anxiety in primary care: prevalent but untreated

Depress Anxiety. 2004;20(4):155-64. doi: 10.1002/da.20039.


We present prevalence and treatment utilization rates for child anxiety disorders in a university-affiliated primary care clinic. Families were recruited from a pediatric patient list and 714 families participated in an initial study wherein they completed child anxiety questionnaires. According to parent and child self-report questionnaires (n=714), 22% and 20% of children, respectively, were above a suggested clinical cutoff on a brief anxiety screen; 19% and 14% of children exceeded clinical cutoffs on a separate social anxiety questionnaire. All families were invited to participate in a second study that included the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for Children-Parent Version and questions about treatment utilization; telephone interviews with 190 parents showed 1-year prevalence rates of DSM-IV child disorders to be 10.0% (se=2.2%) for specific phobia, 6.8% (se=1.8%) for social phobia, 3.2% (se=1.3%) for generalized anxiety disorder, 0.5% (se=.7%) for selective mutism, 1.6% (se=.9%) for major depressive disorder, 1.1% (se=.7%) for dysthymia, and 12.6% (se=2.4%) for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Among children with a current anxiety disorder, 31% had received counseling or medication treatment during their lifetime, compared to 40% of children with depression and 79% with ADHD. Adolescent age and being Caucasian were predictors of psychotherapy use; having an ADHD diagnosis was a predictor of both psychotherapy and medication use. The high prevalence of impairing anxiety disorders, in concert with the very low extent of treatment utilization, suggests a need for methods to identify and disseminate empirically validated treatments for these disorders in the primary care setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Parents
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy*
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires