WVXU: UC study examines hesitancy to treat childhood anxiety with medication

The University of Cincinnati's Jeffrey Strawn, MD, and Jeffrey Mills, PhD, recently published research that found only about 10% of children and adolescents with anxiety disorders opted to begin medication treatment after cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) did not lead to improvements.

Strawn, Mills and Angela Scott, PhD, a staff psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, recently joined Cincinnati Edition on WVXU to discuss the research.

"These are all kids who had pretty high quality CBT," Strawn said. "One of the things we’re thinking about is that there may be a shelf life for some of the treatments that we have and that if you don’t receive a certain amount of improvement by a certain point there’s almost kind of a giving up of some of these patients."

Patients from racial and ethnic minorities were three times less likely to begin medication treatment compared to white patients, and younger patients were also significantly less likely to begin medication. Parent and patient expectations of the effectiveness of treatments were also a predictor of whether they would opt to start medication treatment. 

"What happens here is we don’t have a lot of other variables," Mills explained. "A variable such as white versus non-white stands in as a proxy representing a lot of other socioeconomic and cultural factors we just haven’t been able to measure. All these psychiatric studies tend to be outpatient, so the patient goes back to their environment, and that can be very different. Unfortunately race and minority is an indicator of that."

Scott said she was not surprised by the findings that racial and ethnic minorities were less likely to begin medication treatment.

"Anecdotally in working with patients of color, it’s more like it seems like they don’t feel that that’s for them if that makes sense. Like medication or mental health treament was created by white people, for white people," she said. "Having more representation in these clinical trials -- and when we do have really good representation, making sure that we’re disseminating that information, getting that out to the community so that people can see that yes these are efficacious treatments and they do work for even your group of people -- helps to dissuade some of the concern."

Listen to the Cincinnati Edition segment.

Featured photo at top of Strawn and Mills. Photo/University of Cincinnati.

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