Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 548–553 | Cite as

Primary Versus Secondary Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Youth: Is the Distinction an Important One?

  • Thomas H. Ollendick
  • Matthew A. Jarrett
  • Bradley A. White
  • Susan W. White
  • Amie E. Grills
Original Article


Examine whether children with a primary diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) differ from children with a secondary diagnosis of GAD on clinician, parent, teacher, and youth-report measures. Based on consensus diagnoses, 64 youth referred to a general outpatient assessment clinic were categorized as having either a primary or secondary diagnosis of GAD. A semi-structured diagnostic interview was used to guide diagnostic decisions and assign primary versus secondary diagnostic status. We predicted that youth with a primary GAD diagnosis would present with greater anxiety symptomatology and symptom impairment on a variety of anxiety-related measures than youth with a secondary GAD diagnosis. Contrary to our hypotheses, no differences were found between those with primary versus secondary GAD diagnoses on measures of symptom severity and clinical impairment, comorbid diagnoses, or youth and teacher-report measures. Our findings have potential implications for the current practice of requiring primary anxiety diagnostic status as an inclusion criterion in clinical research and treatment outcome studies. Assuming our findings are confirmed in larger samples and with other anxiety disorders, future clinical trials and basic psychopathology research might not exclude youth based on absence of a particular anxiety disorder as the primary disorder but rather include individuals for whom that anxiety disorder is secondary as well.


Primary Principal Diagnosis Child Anxiety 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas H. Ollendick
    • 1
  • Matthew A. Jarrett
    • 2
  • Bradley A. White
    • 1
  • Susan W. White
    • 1
  • Amie E. Grills
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Child Study CenterVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  3. 3.Counseling and Human DevelopmentBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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