A systematic review of cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety in adults with intellectual disabilities

J Intellect Disabil Res. 2018 Nov;62(11):974-991. doi: 10.1111/jir.12548. Epub 2018 Sep 18.


Background: Anxiety disorders have high prevalence in people with intellectual disabilities. In populations without intellectual disabilities, cognitive behavioural therapy is a first line psychological therapy for these presentations. There is no existing review of the range of methods and outcomes from intervention studies in this area.

Method: A systematic review was carried out following guidance in the Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions.

Results: Nineteen studies were identified. The majority of reports were descriptive case studies; the most frequently described presentations were non-specific anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder; the most frequently described cognitive techniques were psycho-education and interventions directly aimed at thoughts and beliefs and most studies reported positive outcomes, although the better controlled studies tended to report less comprehensive impacts.

Conclusions: A range of presentations have been described although the area is still at a primarily descriptive stage. We discuss intervention structures and approaches that require further research.

Keywords: adults; anxiety; cognitive behavioural therapy; intellectual disability; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Comorbidity*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology
  • Intellectual Disability / therapy*