CBT for Anxiety and Associated Somatic Complaints in Pediatric Medical Settings: An Open Pilot Study

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Abstract

Objective

To examine the initial feasibility and potential efficacy of a cognitive-behavioral intervention for youth with anxiety disorders and non-medical somatic symptoms.

Background

Based on a strong relationship between somatic complaints and anxiety disorders, screening youngsters seeking medical care due to physical symptoms with no organic basis may enhance the recognition of anxiety disorders and facilitate access to appropriate services.

Method

Seven boys and girls, ages 8 through 15, with medically unexplained gastrointestinal complaints and anxiety disorders received a 12-session cognitive-behavioral intervention targeting anxiety and physical symptoms. Assessments were conducted at baseline and following treatment.

Results

All participants were classified as treatment responders. Three of the seven participants no longer met diagnostic criteria for their principal anxiety disorder. Children's physical discomfort decreased from a moderate to minimal level based on self- and parent-reports.

Conclusions

Our modified cognitive-behavioral approach has promise for reducing anxiety and somatic symptoms in children seeking medical care.

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