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Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: aetiology, diagnosis and treatment

  • Aaron K. Vallance and Victoria Fernandez
Summary

The presentation of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents shares similarities and differences with that in adults, and may vary significantly, depending on the age of the individual. Assessment must differentiate anxiety disorders from developmentally appropriate fears as well as medical conditions and drugs that can mimic anxiety states. Aetiology of anxiety disorders in this group encompasses complex genetic and environmental influences. Additional insight into causation is provided by neuroimaging and research into temperament. Recommended interventions include both cognitive-behavioural therapy and pharmacology. Although childhood anxiety disorders generally remit, there remains an increased risk for anxiety and depressive disorders to emerge in adulthood, most likely through heterotypical continuity.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr Aaron K. Vallance, West Surrey CAMHS Community Team, Azalea House, Farnham Road Hospital, Guildford GU2 7LX, UK. Email: aaron.vallance@sabp.nhs.uk
Footnotes
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This is an updated version of a chapter published in Huline-Dickens S (ed) (2014) Clinical Topics in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. RCPsych Publications.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

• Understand the nature of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents, including their range, epidemiology and presentation

• Comprehend the complex aetiological influences (e.g. genetics, family environment, brain development) on the pathogenesis of these disorders

• Appreciate the assessment process for anxiety disorders in this group and the variety of treatment options, encompassing psychological therapies and psychoactive medications

DECLARATION OF INTEREST

None

Footnotes
References
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Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: aetiology, diagnosis and treatment

  • Aaron K. Vallance and Victoria Fernandez
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