Anxiety Disorders in Children

16 January 2020

Expert Opinion Statement by Cathy Creswell, Professor of Developmental Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford (UK)


Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem across the lifespan and cause substantial personal, familial, and societal burden. They have a particularly early age of onset, with a median age of onset of 11 years, highlighting the importance of early intervention for anxiety disorders. Effective treatments for preadolescent anxiety disorders do exist (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy; CBT), but we found that only 2% of children who had a current anxiety disorder, surveyed in England, had accessed CBT. Families face a broad range of barriers to accessing effective support, including problems with identification of problems, recognition of potential benefit of professional help, willingness to seek professional help, and identifying and getting to see a suitable professional. These barriers highlight the need for efficient and accessible interventions that address parental concerns. One potential route to deliver CBT efficiently is through a guided parent-led approach in which parents are supported to apply CBT principles in their child’s day to day life. We have demonstrated that this is an effective and cost-effective approach. Recent developments to increase access further include the development of an online version of the approach, and an integrated identification-to-intervention programme delivered through schools.

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