We are seeing a lot more focus on anxiety treatment these days. In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on Anxiety Screenings for Adults has just announced its recommendations, which you can read about on their website.

As they state “Created in 1984, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications. All recommendations are published on the Task Force’s Web site and/or in a peer-reviewed journal.”

Lori Pbert, a member of the task force, explains that “Many adults have fears and worries. However, anxiety disorders are mental health conditions where excessive fear or worry interferes with an individual’s normally normal daily activities. These really are including things like feeling nervous, anxious or on edge, unable to control worrying, really having trouble relaxing, feeling restless, afraid something awful might happen and feeling anxious or worried for no particular reason. And this anxiety can also involve problems with sleep and changes in eating habits. So it’s more than just the fears and worries that many adults experience.”

The public will be able to comment on the draft recommendations through October 17th, 2022. This window for comment was meant to make sure that the general public feels that it has a say in these guidelines and in order to help medical experts understand what’s working and what’s not so they can develop with the best possible screening.

I believe that it’s always a good idea to allow the public to weigh in, and it will be interesting to see what people across the country have to say.  But I see that process as more or less a formality. The data clearly supports screening for anxiety, so I believe that’s what the panel will endorse.

People ask me why screening for anxiety disorders is such a prominent issue these days. And I tell them that we are seeing a serious increase in anxiety across the country and that there is extensive evidence that screenings are one of the best tools at identifying anxiety and depression. Screening is important since it often leads to early detection and therefore allows treatment to begin sooner, with better outcomes.

The anxiety screening will be in the form of a reasonably brief questionnaire, which has proven to be an effective tool. There are several different versions they can base the new screening on, but simplicity and effectiveness will be the most important qualities. We want something that gets straight to the issue and allows the patient to share their feelings and the physician to diagnose the condition. These guidelines are very likely to go into effect, and when they do, they will have quite a serious impact on the way many primary care providers treat their patients. I believe with these screenings we will see a lot more anxiety being diagnosed and treated.

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