Mental health is very important. Yet, it’s safe to say that it’s still a rather taboo topic in the U.S. But now, routine anxiety screenings will likely become the norm for adults, spreading awareness and increasing treatment.
Anxiety Screenings For Adults Now Recommended
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has officially stated that adults under the age of 65 should be screened for anxiety in the U.S. With the help of independent disease prevention and medical experts, the group created a first draft of guidance, which is awaiting public comments. “Screening for anxiety in adults younger than 65, and that includes those who are pregnant and postpartum … can help identify anxiety early…So it’s truly exciting.” Lori Pbert, a task force member and clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, told CNN.
What anxiety disorders, in particular, are they looking for? According to the panel and their group, anxiety disorders are “characterized by greater duration or intensity of a stress response over everyday events.” That includes generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia.
Of course, those struggling with mental health are also recommended to get screenings for major depressive disorder. So, why was anxiety disorder seen as a priority? In general, anxiety is more likely to be found in adults, thus making it a more pertinent issue. Since the pandemic started, the U.S. saw a surge in diagnoses of anxiety and depression. Thankfully, adults from 18 to 44 years old became the most likely to receive mental health treatment in 2021, proving that there has been an “increased focus on mental health in this country [over] the past few years,” said Pbert.
Who Will Be Recommended For Screening?
That said, the recommendation will mostly be aimed at adults 19 years old and older who have never been diagnosed with mental health disorders. As for the depression screening, it will apply to those 19 and over who aren’t showing any particular signs of suicidal behavior. For those who are obviously suffering, Pbert said that they should receive the mental health care they deserve right away rather than needing to wait for a screening.
To assist the process, brief screening tools have been developed for anxiety and depression. Now, primary care will include tools like questionnaires and scales. Positive screening results will end up leading to more research and continued support. With time, the task force will find the ultimate tools and timing for the screenings.
Unfortunately, not everyone will be recommended for screenings. Yet, if a pragmatic approach is applied, any adults who haven’t been screened before should undergo such treatment. USPSTF said the team will need to make decisions about initial and additional screenings for people who are highly at risk.
“There are missed opportunities within primary care practice, and this is why we need research to understand what is the best way that we can screen individuals who do not have recognized signs or symptoms of suicide risk, so that we can identify them and connect them with care,” Pbert said. “Our hope is that by raising awareness of these issues and having recommendations for clinicians, that we’ll be able to help all adults in the United States, including those who experience disparities.”