For the first time ever, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended all adults under 65 receive annual screenings for anxiety, even if they aren’t showing symptoms.
The recommendation is based on a review that started before the pandemic, but gained more traction because of it.
The guidance is “very timely,” said Lori Pbert, a task force member and co-author. Pbert is a psychologist-researcher at the University of Massachusetts’ Chan Medical School.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health complaints, affecting about 40% of U.S. women at some point in their lives and more than one in four men.
Black people, those living in poverty, people who have lost partners, and those living with other mental health issues are among the adults who at higher risk for developing anxiety, which can manifest as panic attacks, phobias or feeling always on edge.
Screening is step one. The most common screening tool is a brief questionnaire, asking about fears and worries that interfere with daily activities.
“The most important thing to recognize is that a screening test alone is not sufficient to diagnose anxiety,” Pbert said.
The next step is a more thorough evaluation by a mental health professional, though finding mental health care can be difficult given shortages of specialists.
That’s where local leaders come in.
Last month, Gov. Tony Evers allocated $14 million in federal funding for mental health services. That money will be used to expand the state’s mental health care workforce and provide more options for kids dealing with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
“Every Wisconsinite should have access to the quality, affordable health care they need when they need it, especially our kids who have been struggling perhaps now more than ever,” Evers said.
The Bottom Line
Undiagnosed and/or untreated mental health conditions are just as problematic as physical conditions. But there’s still a stigma surrounding many of them. Visit NAMI.org for more information and affordable resources.