Objective: This study evaluated follow-up outcomes associated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for childhood anxiety by comparing successfully and unsuccessfully treated participants 6.72 to 19.17 years after treatment.
Method: Participants were a sample of 66 youths (ages 7-14 years at time of treatment, ages 18-32 years at present follow-up) who had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and randomized to treatment in a randomized clinical trial on average 16.24 (SD = 3.56, range = 6.72-19.17) years prior. The present follow-up included self-report measures and a diagnostic interview to assess anxiety, depression, and substance misuse.
Results: Compared with those who responded successfully to CBT for an anxiety disorder in childhood, those who were less responsive had higher rates of panic disorder, alcohol dependence, and drug abuse in adulthood. Relative to a normative comparison group, those who were less responsive to CBT in childhood had higher rates of several anxiety disorders and substance misuse problems in adulthood. Participants remained at particularly increased risk, relative to the normative group, for generalized anxiety disorder and nicotine dependence regardless of initial treatment outcome.
Conclusions: The present study is the first to assess the long-term follow-up effects of CBT treatment for an anxiety disorder in youth on anxiety, depression, and substance abuse through the period of young adulthood when these disorders are often seen. Results support the presence of important long-term benefits of successful early CBT for anxiety.
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