Anxiety characteristics in individuals with Williams syndrome

Rachel Royston*, Chris Oliver, Patricia Howlin, Jane Waite

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Williams syndrome anxiety research predominantly focuses on disorder prevalence and symptomatology, categorised using standardised mental health classifications. However, the use of these assessments may not fully capture the phenotypic features of anxiety in Williams syndrome. In this study, we examined characteristics of anxiety using a formulation framework.

METHOD: A semi-structured interview was conducted with thirteen parents of individuals with Williams syndrome (median age: 19, age range: 12-45, 8 females).

RESULTS: Various anxiety triggers were reported, including anxiety triggered by phobias, uncertainty and negative emotions in others. The range of described behaviours was diverse with both avoidant and active coping strategies for anxiety management reported.

CONCLUSIONS: Many of the characteristics described were consistent with findings in the intellectual disability and typically developing literature, although novel information was identified. The study demonstrates the utility of a formulation framework to explore anxiety characteristics in atypical populations and has outlined new avenues for research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1098-1107
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number4
Early online date9 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

Funding: The study was funded by the charity Cerebra (Carmarthen, UK) and the Williams Syndrome Foundation (Portsmouth, UK).


  • Williams syndrome
  • anxiety
  • anxiety assessment
  • behavioural phenotype
  • formulation framework
  • intellectual disability


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