Less Than A Quarter Of American Youths Remain Anxiety Free After Treatment

Written by Jim Folk
Written by Jim Folk
Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN
Last updated June 23, 2021
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In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), researchers found that less than one quarter of American youth who received treatment for anxiety disorder remained anxiety disorder free after a follow up some years later. We believe the reasons for the high incidence of rebound are two-fold:

1. Medication doesn’t provide long-term relief.

Unless anxiety disorder is addressed at the behavioral level, lasting success is unrealistic. We see this time and time again.

For more information, see our Anxiety 101 section.

2. 12 Weeks Of Therapy Is Not Nearly Enough

A one-time 12-week run of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is not nearly enough time to address all of the underlying issues that contribute to anxious behavior. Such a short run of therapy, while beneficial, is only enough time to address the superficial aspects of anxiety disorder. Therefore, the likelihood of relapse is high, as this research has found.

The most effective treatment for anxiety disorder is therapy, and for a suitable amount of time so that all or most of the underlying issues that motivate anxious behavior are successfully addressed. Once successfully addressed, issues with anxiety disorder can’t return. Fortunately, the research has noted this as a remedy to this problem.

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You can read the press release of this research below:

Less than a quarter of American youths previously treated for anxiety disorders stay anxiety-free

Further study of pediatric anxiety disorders is needed to better understand the increased risk for various adult mental health disorders.

For the majority of affected youth, anxiety disorders are chronic, even after a successful course of evidence-based treatments, reports a study published in the July 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).

Pediatric anxiety disorders are common psychiatric illnesses, affecting approximately 10 percent of children. In one of the largest comparative treatment studies, researchers found that 12 weeks of sertraline and/or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) were effective in reducing anxiety and improving functioning. In the newly released follow-up study, researchers re-contacted these youths an average of six years later and then re-assessed them annually for up to four additional years.

Researchers found that 22 percent of youth who received 12 weeks of treatment for an anxiety disorder stayed in remission over the long term, meaning they did not meet diagnostic criteria for any anxiety disorder (defined as any DSM-IV TR anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder). 30 percent of youth who had received treatment remained chronically ill, meeting diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder during each year of follow-up, and 48 percent relapsed, meaning they met diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder at some, but not all follow-ups.

“When you see so few kids stay non-symptomatic after receiving the best treatments we have, that’s discouraging,” said one of the study’s principal investigators, Dr. Golda Ginsburg, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Hartford, CT, USA. “However, we found no difference in outcomes by treatment type. Children were just as likely to stay in remission after treatment with medication as they were after treatment with CBT,” Dr. Ginsburg added.

Specifically, 319 youth and young-adults (the mean age at first follow-up assessment was 17 years) were followed from 2011 through 2015 (65 percent of the 488 youth included in the original treatment study). The researchers conducted annual evaluations that assessed, among other factors, diagnoses, school and social functioning, and service use. Findings indicated that at each follow-up year, approximately half of the youth remained in remission. When examined across all years of the follow-up, that number dropped to 22 percent, while 30 percent continued to meet criteria for an anxiety disorder at every annual evaluation.

The researchers found several factors that predicted which anxious youth were most likely to be in stable remission over the follow-up period. These factors included those who showed clinical improvement after 12 weeks of treatment; males; youth without a social phobia diagnosis; youth who had better family functioning; and those who experienced fewer negative life events.

The researchers concluded that while it may be optimistic to expect that 12 weeks of treatment resulted in long-term remission, it is now clear that more needs to be done to help anxious youth — including treatments that are more durable and a better mental health wellness model that includes regular check-ups to prevent relapse and improve outcomes over time.

Disclaimer: anxietycentre.com is not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted at anxietycentre.com by contributing institutions or for the use of any information throughout anxietycentre.com’s system.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including Less Than A Quarter Of American Youths Remain Anxiety Free After Treatment.


1. Golda S. Ginsburg, Emily M. Becker-Haimes, Courtney Keeton, Philip C. Kendall, Satish Iyengar, Dara Sakolsky, Anne Marie Albano, Tara Peris, Scott N. Compton, John Piacentini. Results From the Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Extended Long-Term Study (CAMELS): Primary Anxiety Outcomes. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2018; 57 (7): 471 DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2018.03.017