AACAP: Facing Fears Reduces Children's Anxiety

Greater functional improvement is associated with sessions that incorporate exposure homework

THURSDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Among children with anxiety disorders, those who complete exposure exercises aimed at getting them to face their fears may experience greater functional improvement than those who are taught other anxiety-management strategies, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Chicago.

In a study of 41 children, Jennifer L. Vande Voort, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a colleague assessed therapy sessions for the presence or absence of exercises exposing children to their fears and the use of relaxation techniques. All 41 children and their primary caregivers completed pre-treatment and post-treatment anxiety assessment scales (Spence Children's Anxiety Scale).

The researchers found that a higher percentage of therapy sessions including exposure homework were associated with a significant reduction in child-reported anxiety symptoms. They also found that the percentage of sessions including relaxation techniques had no significant effect on reducing anxiety symptoms.

"Our study supports the prominence of exposure exercises as an agent of change for child anxiety treatment," the authors conclude. " This approach to treatment is shorter and has a greater emphasis on exposures than the traditional protocol."

More Information

Physician's Briefing