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Burn-Injured Youth May Be at Increased Risk for Long-Term Anxiety Disorders

Rimmer, Ruth Brubaker PhD, CLCP; Bay, R. Curtis PhD; Alam, Now Bahar BS; Sadler, Ian J. PhD; Hansen, Linda AD; Foster, Kevin N. MD, MBA; Caruso, Daniel M. MD, FACS

doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e31828c73ac
Original Articles

This study aimed to determine the prevalence of long-term anxiety disorder in burn-injured youth. It is well documented that inpatient pediatric burn patients experience heightened anxiety. However, the prevalence of anxiety disorder in pediatric burn survivors warrants further investigation. Participants completed the Screen for Anxiety Related Disorders, a 41-item self-report measuring anxiety disorder symptomatology. Respondents included 197 pediatric burn survivors, 105 boys, 92 girls, who were between 8 and 18 years of age; the mean age was 12.4 ± 2.4 years. Mean age at time of injury was 5.8 ± 3.7 years, with 79% of youth reporting visible scars. There were 77 participants (39%) who screened positive for a possible anxiety disorder with a total anxiety score ≥25, and 28% with a total mean score of ≥30, more specific to the likely presence of anxiety disorder. Nearly half of the participants (44%) reported symptoms indicating the presence of separation anxiety with a mean score of ≥5, and 28% had symptoms indicating the presence of panic disorder and school avoidance disorder. Significant sex differences were observed for anxiety, with girls scoring significantly higher than boys on total anxiety P ≤ .001 and on all four subscales. Youth attending burn camps for ≥5 years reported significantly lower anxiety scores. This study supports the screening of burn-injured youth for anxiety disorder and highlights the importance of educating parents and burn care professionals regarding the symptoms of anxiety disorders. This can help to ensure that pediatric burn survivors receive treatment when anxiety disorder symptoms are present. Screening appears to be especially important for girls.

From the Arizona Burns Center at Maricopa Medical Center, Phoenix.

Address correspondence to R. B. Rimmer, PhD, CLCP, Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Medical Center, 2601 East Roosevelt, Phoenix, Arizona 85008.

© 2014 The American Burn Association