If the screening indicates the potential for an anxiety disorder, further evaluation for diagnosis will be recommended. One of the screening tools, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7), is a seven-item scale that helps to identify symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, and assesses for symptoms such as persistent worry, irritability, restlessness, and difficulty relaxing.
The screening can “help to open up a discussion regarding the impact of anxiety symptoms and how they might be interfering with health and quality of life,” says Dr. Ginsberg. “Based on responses to the screening questionnaire and subsequent discussion with a provider, patients and providers can decide collaboratively on next steps.”
She adds: “Sometimes anxiety might be a product of a recent stressor that can resolve on its own, but other times it is pervasive, chronic, or acute (such as in postpartum anxiety) and, if left untreated, can worsen over time, and make life more difficult to manage. Having standardized entry points for screening can open the door to opportunities for providers to identify anxiety as a symptom akin to a physical health symptom and inform comprehensive treatment planning.”
In October 2022, the Task Force recommended anxiety screening to begin at age 8 for children. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in kids, affecting about one in 11 children ages 3 to 17 in the U.S. But for anxiety in the adult population, the Task Force’s recommendation is a first.
“We are getting better at transforming behavioral healthcare by understanding and highlighting the interplay of physical and mental health and addressing the full spectrum of needs. Your body feels what your mind feels,” says Dr. Ginsberg. “The recommendations from the Task Force help to substantiate and normalize conversations related to mental health between patients and providers. This will create the potential to strengthen compassionate, patient-centered care, with the hope of bridging patients to resources and supports that could be profoundly helpful.”