Study Highlights Benefits of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Childhood Anxiety.

Courtney Benjamin Wolk, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Researcher Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research Perelman School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104 MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Courtney Benjamin Wolk, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher
Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research
Perelman School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous research investigating the relationship between anxiety and suicidality has been mixed. An ongoing question in the field has been whether anxiety disorders independently increase risk for suicidal ideation and behavior or if the high co-occurrence of anxiety and mood symptoms or other shared demographic factors are driving relationships that have been observed between anxiety and suicidality.

We examined the relationship between response to treatment for an anxiety disorder in childhood and suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts 7 to 19 years after treatment with cognitive-behavioral therapy, more commonly referred to as CBT. Our results indicated that participants who responded favorably to cognitive-behavioral therapy during childhood had lower rates of lifetime, past month, and past two-week suicidal ideation endorsement than treatment non-responders. This was the case across both self-report and interview-report of suicidal ideation. Treatment response was not significantly associated with suicide plans or attempts, though plans and attempts were infrequently endorsed in our sample, limiting the ability to detect findings.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: For clinicians, these results underscore the importance of assessing for suicidality when working with youth with anxiety, even when they are not exhibiting depressive symptoms. Additionally, we recommend monitoring anxious youth for suicidality over time, especially those who do not respond to treatment, as they may be at particularly high risk. Finally, clinicians may consider augmenting evidence-based anxiety treatment for youth experiencing symptoms of suicidality or those not responding to treatment.

For patients, these findings add to the literature demonstrating that there are long-term benefits of successful cognitive-behavioral therapy, for childhood anxiety. They also highlight the importance of early identification and evidence-based treatment of anxiety disorders when they emerge in childhood.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Given the growing public health concern around suicide, future research on anxiety and suicidality is needed. Most studies to date of anxiety and suicidality have been post-hoc and not systematic examinations of these relationships. Further studies that examine these relationships longitudinally using comprehensive assessments of anxiety and suicidality are needed. Additionally, the relationship between anxiety and suicidality may be more or less powerful for certain childhood anxiety disorders and studies that investigate this further will help advance our knowledge in this area.

Citation:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Child Anxiety Confers Long-Term Protection From Suicidality
Wolk, Courtney Benjamin et al.

Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry , Volume 54 , Issue 3 , 175 – 179

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2014.12.004

 

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Courtney Benjamin Wolk, Ph.D. (2015). Study Highlights Benefits of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Childhood Anxiety.