Anxiety in children with selective mutism: a meta-analysis

Driessen, Jim ; Blom, Jan Dirk ; Muris, Peter ; Blashfield, Roger K. ; Molendijk, Marc L. (2019-10-24)

CITATION: Driessen, J. et al. 2020. Anxiety in Children with Selective Mutism: A Meta-analysis. Child Psychiatry & Human Development 51:330–341. doi:10.1007/s10578-019-00933-1

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This study evaluates the current conceptualization of selective mutism (SM) as an anxiety disorder in the DSM-5 using a meta-analytic approach. In the absence of any systematic assessment of anxiety in the field of SM, we pooled prevalence data of comorbid anxiety disorders in a random-effects meta-analysis. On the basis of 22 eligible studies (N = 837), we found that 80% of the children with SM were diagnosed with an additional anxiety disorder, notably social phobia (69%). However, considerable heterogeneity was present, which remained unexplained by a priori specified moderators. The finding that SM is often diagnosed in combination with anxiety disorders, indicates that these disorders are not discrete, separable categories. Moreover, this finding does not help to elucidate the relation between SM and anxiety as an etiological mechanism or symptomatic feature. Broadening our research strategies regarding the assessment of anxiety is paramount to clarify the role of anxiety in SM, and allow for proper classification.

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