Pharmacologic treatment of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents

J. F. Velosa, M. A. Riddle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article reviews the pharmacologic treatment of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. These disorders are quite common and can be considered a 'silent epidemic' because they are more often reported by the children and adolescents than by their parents. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), benzodiazepines, buspirone, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been used to treat anxiety disorders in children and adolescents with varying degrees of success. Considering safety and efficacy, the SSRIs appear to be the first-line treatment for anxiety disorders in youth, but more studies are needed to confirm preliminary results. Tricyclic antidepressants and benzodiazepines may be considered when the child has not responded to SSRIs or when adverse effects have exceeded benefits. Although nonpharmacologic approaches for the treatment of anxiety in children and adolescents are beyond the scope of this article, their importance is to be underscored and they should be considered as part of the treatment plan. Over the next decade, research data will be generated regarding the treatment of anxiety disorders in youth. Ongoing research studies include the use of fluoxetine (B. Birmaher, personal communication, 1999) and fluvoxamine (J. Walkup, personal communication, 1999) for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, or social phobia; and buspirone for generalized anxiety disorder in children. Despite these efforts, there is a need for more studies to examine the safety and efficacy of different pharmacologic treatments, as well as longitudinal studies to monitor for long-term tolerability and side effects. Pharmacokinetic studies for children and adolescents will provide information on the metabolism and absorption of these medications and delineate the developmental differences between children and adolescents when compared to adults. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, studies that compare medication, psychosocial treatments, and their combination are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-133
Number of pages15
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Pharmacologic treatment of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this