Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rod McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
I read that anxiety screening is now recommended for all adult patients under age 65. What’s involved in a screening, and why the upper age limit?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. When persistent anxiety interferes with daily activities, it may be one of many common psychiatric disorders. Untreated, these conditions can continue for years and impact our overall health.
Apart from excessive worry, common symptoms of anxiety disorders include trouble sleeping, headaches, muscle aches and other unexplained pain, difficulty concentrating, and being easily fatigued. The first step toward diagnosing and treating a condition like generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder or panic disorder is screening using standardized questionnaires.
In commonly used surveys, patients rank up to 30 statements to self-report how often in recent weeks they’ve felt things like trouble relaxing, irritability, dreading something terrible happening, or excessive worry. Each item is scored, and the higher the score, the more probable a case of an anxiety disorder.
This month, an independent task force of experts advised for the first time that doctors should screen all patients under 65 for anxiety. Their recommendations are in draft form and will be finalized in the coming months following public comment.
If a screening is positive for anxiety, a patient can get a diagnostic assessment from their health care provider. Providers can then recommend psychotherapy with a mental health professional, medication, or both.
The task force stopped short of advising routine screenings for adults 65 and older. The panel noted that common symptoms of aging, such as fatigue and pain, overlap with anxiety symptoms. The experts expressed concern that current screening tools for anxiety may lead to false diagnoses in older adults, resulting in unnecessary and potentially harmful interventions.
Untreated anxiety can lead to social isolation, clinical depression and a host of other ailments. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, only about a third of the 40 million U.S. adults with anxiety disorders receive treatment. Increased screening may be a key first step toward improved mental health treatment in the U.S.
Do you have a health query for Dr. McEver? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!