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Better Diagnosis of Anxiety Could Improve Care for Veterans

Better Diagnosis of Anxiety Could Improve Care for Veterans A new study discovers that many veterans receive a diagnosis of generalized anxiety rather than a more accurate, specific diagnosis of their condition.

Accordingly, veterans who suffer from anxiety may not get appropriate treatment for their particular condition.

Lead researcher Terri L. Barrera, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston looked at data from Veterans Health Administration outpatient records for patients with anxiety.

As reported in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, the researchers discovered 38 percent of the sample was diagnosed with anxiety non-specified (NOS).

The research team expected to find that a diagnosis 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 generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder or a specific phobia.

While treatments for various anxiety disorders are similar, usually including medication and behavioral therapy, the approach might differ.

Veterans with a specific anxiety diagnosis were more likely to receive mental health services.

From 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 primary care 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 mental health 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.”

Source: CFAH – Health Behavioral News Service

 

American veteran in distress photo by shutterstock.

Better Diagnosis of Anxiety Could Improve Care for Veterans

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Better Diagnosis of Anxiety Could Improve Care for Veterans. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 12, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/09/better-diagnosis-of-anxiety-could-improve-care-for-veterans/63063.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.