Why You Should Take An Anxiety Disorder Test

If you are under 65, your next test may include a new screening for anxiety.

A panel of medical experts is, for the first time, recommend that adults under the age of 65 be checked annually by their primary care physician for the increasingly common mental health condition, even if they have no symptoms.

It can help identify an anxiety disorder early on so people can be connected to care, Lori Pbert, a member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said in a statement about the group’s draft recommendation, released on September 20. The public has until October 17 to comment. on the proposed guidelines before they are finalized.

“I think it’s very necessary and very overdue,” says Robert Hudak, MD, a psychiatrist at Western Psychiatric Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States. More 15 percent of adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Previous federal data shows that about 20% of American adults have an anxiety disorder. And the pandemic has only compounded the problem, sending cases to exceed those estimates, both in the United States and abroad, studies show.

“I really think the COVID pandemic has brought to light the impact everyday stress and anxiety can have on people,” says Lauren Gerlach, a geriatric psychiatrist and assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University College of Medicine. the University of Michigan.

A CDC report found that between August 2020 and February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%.

The numbers have declined since the peak of the pandemic, says Gail Saltz, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College and psychoanalyst at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute in New York. But there are still plenty of lingering stressors that can impact anxiety levels, such as the loss of a loved one to COVID-19 or economic hardship, she says.

Despite its prevalence, anxiety often goes unrecognized in primary care settings, according to the U.S. Task Force on Preventive Services, and few providers seek it out. But checking for warning signs in patients who don’t have clear symptoms could “significantly increase the likelihood that patients will receive timely treatment, potentially saving them years of suffering,” the USPSTF says.

If left untreated, anxiety disorders can lead to a number of other health problems. For example, individuals may struggle to function normally at home, at work, or in relationships, Saltz points out. “And leaving that for long periods of time obviously has real ramifications for a person’s ability to stay engaged with family, with friends, with work, career development, all of that,” she says.

Untreated anxiety can also lead to clinical depression and can impact everything from blood pressure to peptic ulcers to chronic pain disorders. Additionally, it can cause high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, to circulate in the body. “And we know that chronically high levels of circulating cortisol have detrimental effects on the body and the brain,” says Saltz. (Overexposure to cortisol can increase the risk of heart disease and memory and concentration problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.)

Julio V. Miller