Assessment and Treatment of Anxiety Among Children and Adolescents

Focus (Am Psychiatr Publ). 2017 Apr;15(2):144-156. doi: 10.1176/appi.focus.20160047. Epub 2017 Apr 6.


Among children and adolescents, anxiety disorders are common psychiatric disorders that confer risk of comorbid psychiatric disorders and social and academic impairment. This review focuses on the assessment and treatment of anxiety disorders among children and adolescents, with attention to separation anxiety disorder, social phobia disorder (social anxiety disorder), panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Comprehensive assessment of child and adolescent anxiety disorders benefits from a multimethod approach to evaluation and diagnosis, including semistructured interviews; child and informant questionnaires; collateral information from parents, teachers, pediatricians, and school psychologists; and behavioral observations. Because anxiety symptoms can include avoidance behaviors, somatic complaints, social difficulties, and sleep disturbances, consideration of a differential diagnosis is important. Among the available psychosocial interventions, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure-based therapies have emerged as the most well-established treatment approaches for addressing anxiety disorders among children and adolescents. Pharmacologically, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been established to be safe and efficacious for the treatment of pediatric anxiety and are considered the medications of choice for this population. Research indicates that CBT plus SSRI medication is the most effective treatment of anxiety for youths ages seven to 17, compared with either CBT or medication alone. Medication monotherapy and CBT monotherapy have also been demonstrated to be effective treatments.

Keywords: Adolescents; Anxiety & anxiety disorders; Child Psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Review