Anxiety in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Emma Sciberras, Kate Lycett, Daryl Efron, Fiona Mensah, Bibi Gerner, Harriet Hiscock
Pediatrics 2014, 133 (5): 801-8

OBJECTIVES: Although anxiety is common in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is unclear how anxiety influences the lives of these children. This study examined the association between anxiety comorbidities and functioning by comparing children with ADHD and no, 1, or ≥2 anxiety comorbidities. Differential associations were examined by current ADHD presentation (subtype).

METHODS: Children with diagnostically confirmed ADHD (N = 392; 5-13 years) were recruited via 21 pediatrician practices across Victoria, Australia. Anxiety was assessed by using the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for Children-IV. Functional measures included parent-reported: quality of life (QoL; Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory 4.0), behavior and peer problems (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire), daily functioning (Daily Parent Rating of Evening and Morning Behavior), and school attendance. Teacher-reported behavior and peer problems (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire) were also examined. Linear and logistic regression controlled for ADHD severity, medication use, comorbidities, and demographic factors.

RESULTS: Children with ≥2 anxiety comorbidities (n = 143; 39%) had poorer QoL (effect size: -0.8) and more difficulties with behavior (effect size: 0.4) and daily functioning (effect size: 0.3) than children without anxiety (n = 132; 36%). Poorer functioning was not observed for children with 1 anxiety comorbidity (n = 95; 26%). Two or more anxiety comorbidities were associated with poorer functioning for children with both ADHD-Inattentive and ADHD-Combined presentation.

CONCLUSIONS: Children with ADHD demonstrate poorer QoL, daily functioning and behavior when ≥2 anxiety comorbidities are present. Future research should examine whether treating anxiety in children with ADHD improves functional outcomes.


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