Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a well-established treatment for childhood anxiety disorders. Meta-analyses have concluded that approximately 60% of children recover following treatment, however these include studies using a broad range of diagnostic indices to assess outcomes including whether children are free of the one anxiety disorder that causes most interference (i.e. the primary anxiety disorder) or whether children are free of all anxiety disorders. We conducted a meta-analysis to establish the efficacy of CBT in terms of absence of all anxiety disorders.
Where available we compared this rate to outcomes based on absence of primary disorder. Of 56 published randomized controlled trials, 19 provided data on recovery from all anxiety disorders (n=635 CBT, n=450 control participants). There was significant heterogeneity across those studies with available data and full recovery rates varied from 47.6 to 66.4% among children without autistic spectrum conditions (ASC) and 12.2 to 36.7% for children with ASC following treatment, compared to up to 20.6% and 21.3% recovery in waitlist and active treatment comparisons.
The lack of consistency in diagnostic outcomes highlights the urgent need for consensus on reporting in future RCTs of childhood anxiety disorders for the meaningful synthesis of data going forwards.
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