All adults under 65 should be screened for anxiety, panel says

Boston – For the first time, the US Preventative Services Task Force is recommending routine screening for anxiety for all adults under the age of 65.

The influential group of medical experts is trying to help primary care clinicians identify early signs of anxiety during routine care.

The draft recommendation, posted on Tuesday, remains open for public comment through October 17th.

It focuses primarily on young and middle-aged adults, including those who are pregnant and postpartum.

That draft recommendation states that approximately 26 percent of men and 40 percent of women experience anxiety disorders at some point in their lives.

One study cited by the task force found the median time for initiating treatment for anxiety is 23 years.

“Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders, but mood disorders are diagnosed at about twice the rate as anxiety disorders,” said Dr. Edward Silberman, Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts Medical School. “Not having any anxiety would be abnormal. The question is, how intense is the anxiety?”

Dr. Silberman told Boston 25 News that he hopes this draft recommendation will lead to better tools in determining when and what treatment should be used.

“This shouldn’t become a knee jerk reaction. Oh feel anxious? Take this pill,” he said. “Fortunately, anxiety conditions are very responsive to treatment, and some combination of treatments is often the best.”

The task force defines anxiety disorders as “characterized by greater duration or intensity of a stress response over everyday events.”

Their draft recommendation comes during a time of increased awareness on mental health following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It isolated us. It took away a lot of the structure in many people’s lives,” added Dr. Silberman. “There’s nothing worse for a highly anxious person to be at home alone with nothing to do other than to worry and brood.”

Back in April, the task force made similar recommendations to begin anxiety screening in children and teens, ages 8 to 18.

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