Long-term monitoring recommended for children, teens, young adults treated for anxiety

About one in five children in the United States are affected by anxiety. More than half of those treated experience a recurrence of symptoms in the years following the original treatment, according to a new study led by Johns Hopkins Children’s Center researchers.

The study included 288 patients, ages 11 to 26, who had been diagnosed and treated for anxiety for three months using different therapies–medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy or a combination of the two. Patients were followed for an average of six years after the treatment.

About 47 percent had no anxiety six years after treatment; nearly 70 percent, however, required some degree of mental health therapy during the course of the study.

The findings stress the importance of long-term monitoring and management of anxiety–regardless of how well a child initially responds to treatment. Spotting early signs of the re-emergence of anxiety symptoms can improve long-term outcomes, and help to avoid the ripple effects of the disorder, such as substance abuse and depression.

The study was published online this week in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.