Better diagnoses yield improved treatment for vets with anxiety

December 6, 2013 by Joan Macdonald
Better diagnoses yield improved treatment for vets with anxiety

Veterans who suffer from anxiety may not get appropriate treatment for want of a specific diagnosis, finds a new study in General Hospital Psychiatry.

Lead researcher Terri L. Barrera, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, TX looked at data from Veterans Health Administration outpatient records for patients with . 38 percent of the sample was diagnosed with anxiety non-specified (NOS).

They expected to find that a of anxiety NOS disorder was only used temporarily until a more specific diagnosis was decided on. That was not the case.

"Unfortunately, our results suggested that only 12 percent of the patients with an initial anxiety NOS diagnosis received a specific anxiety diagnosis within the year," said Barrera.

Anxiety might be related to post-traumatic stress or be a symptom of , panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or a specific phobia. While treatments for various are similar, usually including medication and behavioral therapy, the approach might differ.

Veterans with a specific anxiety diagnosis were more likely to receive . 60 to 67 percent of those with the most frequently diagnosed specific anxiety disorders received treatment, while only 32 percent of patients with a non-specific diagnosis received mental health services during the year following diagnosis.

"While anxiety is a problem for all who suffer from it, getting the correct treatment is especially important for veterans. Within any given year, 18 percent of the general population may be diagnosed with anxiety. For veterans, it's 33 percent. Veterans are twice as likely to experience clinical levels of anxiety than the general public," said Barrera. "Anxiety disorders can be devastating, and are associated with increased disability and risk for suicide."

Unfortunately, anxiety disorders may go unrecognized and untreated, particularly in settings. Primary care providers only detect 50 percent of patients with mental health problems, note the researchers. Even fewer are adequately treated or referred for specific mental health services.

"It's important to do regular screening in any high-risk population," said Shirley Glynn, Ph.D., a research psychologist and co-director of UCLA's Welcome Back Veterans Family Resilience Center. "We want to be more diligent and do screening early so we can offer intervention if needed, so the condition won't become more chronic."

Anxiety NOS is frequently used as a temporary diagnosis with the expectation that the health care provider will eventually make a more specific diagnosis at a later date. One problem with not making a specific diagnosis is that primary care doctors may not know who to refer patients to, notes Glynn.

"Right now there are several models to improve treatment," said Glynn. "One involves having a professional located in a primary care clinic, such as a psychiatric nurse, a psychologist or a psychiatrist who is available in a timely manner to provide a consultation. Another possibility is to utilize short screening questionnaires with patients before they see a physician and then these can be reviewed with the doctor."

Explore further: Chronic pain sufferers likely to have anxiety

More information: T. Barrera, J. Mott, N. Hundt, J. Mignogna, Y. Hong-Jen, M. Stanley, J. Cully, Diagnostic Specificity and Mental Health Service Utilization Among Veterans with Newly Diagnosed Anxiety Disorders, General Hospital Psychiatry, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2013.10.013

Related Stories

Chronic pain sufferers likely to have anxiety

May 15, 2013
Patients coping with chronic pain should also be evaluated for anxiety disorders, according to new research published in General Hospital Psychiatry.

Primary care doctors fail to recognize anxiety disorders

February 22, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Primary care providers fail to recognize anxiety disorders in two-thirds of patients with symptoms, reports a new study in General Hospital Psychiatry.

Research finds cognitive-behavioral therapy effective in combatting anxiety disorders

June 28, 2012
Whether it is a phobia like a fear of flying, public speaking or spiders, or a diagnosis such as obsessive compulsive disorder, new research finds patients suffering from anxiety disorders showed the most improvement when ...

Cancer survivors and their partners at greater risk of anxiety than depression in long term

June 4, 2013
Contrary to popular belief, long-term cancer survivors are not at substantially increased risk of depression compared with their healthy counterparts, but are about a quarter more likely to experience anxiety, new research ...

Anxiety help comes, eventually, via primary care

November 7, 2013
A new study by Brown University psychiatry researchers found that seven in 10 primary care patients with anxiety disorders eventually received potentially adequate medication or psychotherapy, but for many it took years to ...

Physical symptoms from prostate biopsy can cause anxiety

October 23, 2013
(HealthDay)—Problematic symptoms of prostate biopsy can lead to increased anxiety in men, even when the biopsy results are negative for cancer, according to research published online Oct. 21 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Recommended for you

Twitter can reveal our shared mood

December 11, 2017
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Bristol have analysed mood indicators in text from 800 million anonymous messages posted on Twitter. These tweets were found to reflect strong patterns ...

Infant brain responses predict reading speed in secondary school

December 11, 2017
A study conducted at the Department of Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland and Jyväskylä Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Research (CIBR) has found that the brain responses of infants with an inherited ...

Study provides hope that schizophrenia isn't as deep-rooted in affected individuals as previously believed

December 8, 2017
A schizophrenia patient's own perceptions of their experiences—and confidence in their judgments—may be factors that can help them overcome challenges to get the life they wish, suggests a new paper published in Clinical ...

The evolutionary advantage of the teenage brain

December 7, 2017
The mood swings, the fiery emotions, the delusions of immortality, all the things that make a teenager a teenager might just seem like a phase we all have to put up with. However, research increasingly shows that the behaviors ...

Study reveals gap in life expectancy for people with mental illness

December 7, 2017
New research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found that men who are diagnosed with a mental health condition in their lifetime can expect to live 10.2 years less than those who aren't, and women 7.3 years.

Reading on electronic devices may interfere with science reading comprehension

December 6, 2017
People who often read on electronic devices may have a difficult time understanding scientific concepts, according to a team of researchers. They suggest that this finding, among others in the study, could also offer insights ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.