Comorbid anxiety and depressive symptoms in children and adolescents: A systematic review and analysis

Tabatha H. Melton, Paul E. Croarkin, Jeffrey R. Strawn, Shawn M. Mcclintock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background: A large and extensive body of research has examined comorbid anxiety and depression in adults. Children and adolescents also frequently present with comorbid anxiety and depression; however, research and treatment require unique environmental and neurodevelopmental considerations in children. As a result, our understanding of comorbid anxiety and depression in children and adolescents is limited. Objective: The goal of this systematic review was to examine the current literature focused on comorbid anxiety and depression in children and adolescents. The review included theoretical conceptualizations as well as diagnostic, neurobiological, prevention, and treatment considerations. In addition, a proposed algorithm for the treatment of comorbid anxiety and depression in children/adolescents is provided. Methods: This systematic literature review included 3 discrete searches in Ovid SP Medline, PsycInfo, and PubMed. Results: The review included and synthesized 115 articles published between 1987 and 2015. The available evidence suggests that anxiety and depression are common in clinical populations of children and adolescents, and that comorbidity is likely underestimated in children and adolescents. Children and adolescents with comorbid anxiety and depression have unique presentations, greater symptom severity, and treatment resistance compared with those who have either disease in isolation. A dimensional approach may be necessary for the future development of diagnostic strategies and treatments for this population. Nascent neuroimaging work suggests that anxiety and depression each represents a distinct neurobiological phenotype. Conclusions: The literature that is currently available suggests that comorbid anxiety and depression is a common presentation in children and adolescents. This diagnostic picture underscores the importance of comprehensive dimensional assessments and multimodal evidence-based approaches given the high disease severity. Future research on the neurobiology and the treatment of these common clinical conditions is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-98
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of psychiatric practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


  • adolescent
  • anxiety
  • child
  • comorbidity
  • depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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