Parents and caregivers of people with Williams syndrome rate benefits from medications in reducing anxiety


Williams syndrome is a neuro-developmental genetic disorder caused by gene deletion estimated to have a prevalence of 1 in 7,500 to 1 in 20,000 live births. Previous studies have identified anxiety as part of the behavioural phenotype of the syndrome

The authors of this US study set out to look at the effectiveness and adverse effects of antidepressant, anxiolytic (anti anxiety) and antipsychotic medications in individuals with Williams syndrome.  They conducted a survey with 513 parents/caregivers to look at medication usage.
What they found was

  • 24% of people had been prescribed an SSRI medication
  • 12% had been prescribed another type of antidepressant or anxiolytic.
  • 81% of respondents described the SSRI medications as either “Helpful” or “Somewhat Helpful”.

In the survey, respondents described paroxetine (anti-depressant) as the least helpful.

  • 64% of respondents said that the non-SSRI antidepressants and anxiolytics were either “Helpful” or “Somewhat Helpful” in treating symptoms of anxiety.
  • 10% reported taking an antipsychotic medication, with risperidone and quetiapine described as more helpful than aripiprazole.

Clearly these results rely on reports from parents and caregivers, but they do identify the scope of further studies of medication usage which could look at impact and self report.

Parent report of antidepressant, anxiolytic, and antipsychotic medication use in individuals with Williams syndrome: Effectiveness and adverse effects, Martens M et al., in Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32,, 6, 2106-2121


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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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