May 22, 2015
1 min read

Transition to adulthood often highlights developmental shortcomings of adolescents with anxiety

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TORONTO — The transition to adulthood often highlights the struggle children with anxiety have meeting developmental milestones, such as emotional, behavioral and financial independence from parents, establishing long-term relationships and personal self-care.

Approximately 10% to 20% of children have anxiety disorders, which can be significantly impairing and lead to comorbid mood or substance use disorders, according to Anne Marie Albano, PhD, of Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Albano presented on adolescent anxiety during the transition to adulthood at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting.

To address anxiety during the transition to adulthood, Albano recommends clinicians recognize the root of anxiety, which often begins in childhood, and the coping mechanisms they have developed.

It is not uncommon for parents to protect their children from their worries and fears, which can encourage the manifestation of anxiety and lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as avoidance, escape and withdrawal, she said.

Although making mistakes is vital to healthy development, it can be difficult for parents to let their child struggle, according to Albano, and parental overprotection and childhood anxiety can lead to stalled development.

When an adolescent with anxiety presents having missed significant developmental milestones, clinicians must address their current coping mechanisms and re-establish healthy ones. This includes targeting the adolescent’s avoidance behavior, cognitive distortions and stalled development via cognitive-behavioral therapy, while also addressing parental overprotection, over-control and tendency to rescue the child from negative outcomes.

The Launching Emerging Adults Program (LEAP), established by Albano and colleagues, uses these approaches to manage anxiety during the transition to adulthood.

“Anxiety and its disorders do not disappear with a high school diploma. Treatment needs to take context into account: the developmental level of the individual, the role of parents and the larger social world of peers, professors, supervisors and everyday interactions,” Albano told “Our ‘Launching Emerging Adults Program’ was developed to give the emerging adult skills to manage anxiety but also, to take responsibility for an engage in life tasks and its transitions.” – by Amanda Oldt


Albano AM. Understanding and effectively managing anxiety in the transition to young adulthood. Presented at: American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting; May 16-20, 2015; Toronto. 

Disclosure: Albano reports receiving honoraria from the American Psychological Association and royalties from Oxford University Press.