An Innovative Treatment Approach for Children with Anxiety Disorders and Medically Unexplained Somatic Complaints

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Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents are largely undetected and the majority of youth do not receive services. Given the deleterious consequences of anxiety disorders, early identification and intervention have public health implications. In order to increase identification and treatment of anxious youth, expansion to nonpsychiatric settings (i.e., pediatric medical settings, schools) is necessary. Pediatric medical offices represent ideal settings for detection and intervention for several reasons: (1) access to large numbers of children, (2) high prevalence of unrecognized anxiety disorders in medical settings, and (3) an association between anxiety disorders and medically unexplained somatic symptoms. This paper describes a cognitive-behavioral intervention for youth who present to pediatric medical settings with nonmedical somatic symptoms and undiagnosed anxiety disorders. We explain the rationale for and focus of our treatment approach, present two case studies illustrating the treatment process, and conclude with a discussion of implementation considerations.



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