Comorbidity of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents: 20 years after

Psychol Bull. 2014 May;140(3):816-45. doi: 10.1037/a0034733. Epub 2013 Nov 11.


Brady and Kendall (1992) concluded that although anxiety and depression in youths are meaningfully linked, there are important distinctions, and additional research is needed. Since then, studies of anxiety-depression comorbidity in youths have increased exponentially. Following a discussion of comorbidity, we review existing conceptual models and propose a multiple pathways model to anxiety-depression comorbidity. Pathway 1 describes youths with a diathesis for anxiety, with subsequent comorbid depression resulting from anxiety-related impairment. Pathway 2 refers to youths with a shared diathesis for anxiety and depression, who may experience both disorders simultaneously. Pathway 3 describes youths with a diathesis for depression, with subsequent comorbid anxiety resulting from depression-related impairment. Additionally, shared and stratified risk factors contribute to the development of the comorbid disorder, either by interacting with disorder-related impairment or by predicting the simultaneous development of the disorders. Our review addresses descriptive and developmental factors, gender differences, suicidality, assessments, and treatment-outcome research as they relate to comorbid anxiety and depression and to our proposed pathways. Research since 1992 indicates that comorbidity varies depending on the specific anxiety disorder, with Pathway 1 describing youths with either social phobia or separation anxiety disorder and subsequent depression, Pathway 2 applying to youths with coprimary generalized anxiety disorder and depression, and Pathway 3 including depressed youths with subsequent social phobia. The need to test the proposed multiple pathways model and to examine (a) developmental change and (b) specific anxiety disorders is highlighted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Child
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation


  • Antidepressive Agents