The Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale in adolescents with generalized anxiety disorder: Signal detection and validation

BACKGROUND: In pediatric patients with anxiety disorders, existing symptom inventories are either not freely available or require extensive time and effort to administer. We sought to evaluate a brief self-report scale— the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale (GAD-7)—in adolescents with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

METHODS: The Pediatric Anxiety Rating Scale (PARS) and the GAD-7 were administered to youth with GAD (confirmed by structured interview). Relationships between the measures were assessed, and sensitivity and specificity was determined with regard to a global symptom severity measure (Clinical Global Impression-Severity).

RESULTS: In adolescents with GAD (N = 40; mean age, 14.8 ± 2.8), PARS and GAD-7 scores strongly correlated (R = 0.65, P < .001) and a main effect for symptom severity was observed (P < .001). GAD-7 scores ≥11 and ≥17 rep­resented the optimum specificity and sensitivity for detecting moderate and severe anxiety, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: The PARS and GAD-7 similarly reflect symptom severity. The GAD-7 is associated with acceptable specificity and sensitivity for detecting clinically significant anxiety symptoms. GAD-7 scores may be used to assess anxiety symptoms and to differentiate between mild and moderate GAD in adolescents, and may be more efficient than the PARS.

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