A Systematic Review of Treatments for Anxiety in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Roma A. Vasa, Laura M. Carroll, Alixandra A. Nozzolillo, Rajneesh Mahajan, Micah O. Mazurek, Amanda E. Bennett, Logan K. Wink, Maria Pilar Bernal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


This study systematically examined the efficacy and safety of psychopharmacological and non-psychopharmacological treatments for anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Four psychopharmacological, nine cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and two alternative treatment studies met inclusion criteria. Psychopharmacological studies were descriptive or open label, sometimes did not specify the anxiety phenotype, and reported behavioral activation. Citalopram and buspirone yielded some improvement, whereas fluvoxamine did not. Non-psychopharmacological studies were mainly randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with CBT demonstrating moderate efficacy for anxiety disorders in youth with high functioning ASD. Deep pressure and neurofeedback provided some benefit. All studies were short-term and included small sample sizes. Large scale and long term RCTs examining psychopharmacological and non-psychopharmacological treatments are sorely needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3215-3229
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Adolescents
  • Anxiety
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Children
  • Treatments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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