Combination Therapy Effective for Kids' Anxiety Disorders

Cognitive behavioral therapy plus antidepressant is most effective, but either alone is also beneficial

THURSDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- In children with anxiety disorders, a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medication effectively treats symptoms, but each therapy alone also is associated with significant improvement, according to a study published online Oct. 30 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

John Walkup, M.D., of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Md., and colleagues from the Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Study (CAMS) randomly assigned 488 children ages 7 to 17 who had moderate to severe separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or social phobia to receive cognitive behavioral therapy alone, sertraline alone, cognitive behavioral therapy and sertraline or placebo.

The researchers found that the combination therapy group had the highest rate of improvement (81 percent) but also observed significant improvements in the cognitive behavioral therapy-alone group (60 percent) and in the sertraline-alone group (55 percent). They observed improvement in only 24 percent of the placebo group.

"Further analyses of the CAMS data may help us predict who is most likely to respond to which treatment, and develop more personalized treatment approaches for children with anxiety disorders," Philip C. Kendall, Ph.D., of Temple University, a senior investigator in the study, said in a statement. "But in the meantime, we can be assured that we already have good treatments at our disposal."

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