Helping childhood with anxiety

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Schwartz, C., Waddell, C., Barican, J., Andres, C., Yung, D., & Gray-Grant, D. (2016). Helping children with anxiety. Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 10(3), 1–16. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

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Background: Approximately 3% of children meet diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder. There are effective interventions to help these young people.

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized control trials (RCTs) evaluating interventions for children and youth with anxiety disorders. Applying our inclusion criteria to the 95 studies identified from our searches, we accepted nine RCTs.

Results: Our review found a strong body of evidence indicating that Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is effective in treating childhood anxiety disorders. We identified eight CBT programs that reduced child anxiety diagnosis or disorder severity including: Cool Kids, Coping Cat, Friends, One-Session Treatment, Parent Education Program, Skills for Academic and Social Success, Strongest Families and Timid to Tiger.  We also found two medications – venlafaxine and sertraline – that reduced diagnosis; both, however, produced significant side effects.

Conclusions: CBT should be the first choice for treating childhood anxiety. CBT has proven evidence of success in treating all types of anxiety disorders among children as young as three. Medications should only be considered when children have not benefitted from CBT. When medications are used, they require ongoing monitoring.

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