Research news

Ground-breaking treatment offered to kids with anxiety

With support from TrygFonden, the Anxiety Disorder Clinic for Children and Adolescents at Aarhus BSS has implemented a treatment programme for children suffering from anxiety disorder. The programme is called Cool Kids. The results of the treatment are enormously positive, and the researchers call to make the treatment option available to children all over the country.

[Translate to English:] Studie viser, at angst er noget, som i langt de fleste tilfælde kan behandles med et godt resultat, hvis børnene får en kvalificeret behandling. Foto: Colourbox

A lot of children are afraid of the dark, of thunder, ghosts or being home alone. It is completely natural. But for some children, the anxiety increases to the extent that it prevents them from living a normal life. Some children cannot cope with going to school or being separated from their parents. Others have obsessive thoughts or rituals that they need to perform, because they believe it may prevent something awful from happening to themselves or their loved ones.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders among children, and childhood anxiety increases the risk of developing mental illness in adulthood. At the Anxiety Disorder Clinic for Children and Adolescents at Aarhus BSS, the researchers are working on the so-called Cool Kids programme, treating children who suffer from anxiety. The effects of the programme, which was originally developed in Australia, have just been evaluated in a Danish scientific study based on 109 participating children. And the results are sensational.

Majority of patients are symptom-free after only three months
Right after finishing the treatment programme, 66 per cent of the patients were free of their primary anxiety diagnosis, while 48 per cent were free of all anxiety diagnoses. After three months, 74 per cent of the patients were free of their primary diagnosis, while 58 per cent were free of all anxiety diagnoses. And after one year, the improvement was maintained. In comparison, there was a control group of patients who were on the waiting list to receive treatment for three months. During this period in which patients received no treatment, only 8 per cent were free of their primary diagnosis and 6 per cent of all anxiety diagnoses.

“The study is the first of its kind in Denmark, and therefore these results are very important. We know that a lot of children in Denmark suffer from anxiety disorders, and we also know that if childhood anxiety goes untreated, it can continue into adulthood and increase the risk of the patient developing, for instance, depression and substance abuse. We therefore hope that the results of this study can help secure a publicly financed treatment option for these children and young people – which is not currently available,” explains Professor Mikael Thastum from the Anxiety Disorder Clinic for Children and Adolescents at Aarhus BSS.

Call for more widespread treatment offers
When the anxiety disorder clinic was launched back in 2009, there were only very few treatment options available to children with anxiety disorders in Denmark. As the Cool Kids programme has become more known in Denmark, quite a few educational psychological services, private psychologists and child psychiatric departments around the country have started applying this method and are now offering evidence-based treatment to children with anxiety and their families.

However, whether a child can receive treatment still depends on which municipality he or she lives in, and no official publicly funded treatment option is available yet. Children and young people with anxiety are also not eligible for national health service reimbursement for psychological treatment.

“Anxiety is widespread among children today. It’s a painful condition and it can create severe problems for the children’s families and their schooling. This study shows that we can successfully treat a majority of the patients if we are able to offer the children qualified treatment. The challenge that we are currently facing is to ensure that these qualified treatment options become available to children throughout the country,” explains Anders Hede, who is research director at TrygFonden.

About the Cool Kids programme
Cool Kids is a scientifically tested behavioural therapeutic treatment programme for children suffering from anxiety disorder. The programme, which was developed in Australia, offers a 10-week treatment course for the children and their parents during which focus is on teaching them to cope with the anxiety and helping each other. The programme includes both individual and group sessions, where the children and their parents acquire tools to tackle the child’s anxiety, regardless of whether the child is afraid of being home alone, being made fun of at school, talking to strangers and so on.

The Cool Kids programmes is targeted at children aged 7-17. The 13 to 17-year-old children become part of the programme called Chilled - which offers the same content.

PhD Kristian Arendt, Professor Mikael Thastum and Professor Esben Hougaard from the Anxiety Disorder Clinic for Children and Adolescents at Aarhus BSS have examined the effects of the Cool Kids programme on children and young people in Denmark. The results were recently published in the international journal Acta Psychiatr Scandinavia.

Further information

Kristian Bech Arendt

PhD Kristian Bech Arendt
Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Tel.: +45 87 16 58 12

Mikael Thastum 

Michael Thastum, Professor and Head of the Anxiety Disorder Clinic for Children and Adolescents
Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Tel.: +45 87165846
Mobile: +45 40238559


Anders Hede, Research Director, TrygFonden
Tel.: +45 45 26 08 05

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