The new educational program from NPS MedicineWise focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders – conditions that often remain undiagnosed for many years but for which effective treatments are available.
Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and generalised anxiety disorder, are the most common mental health conditions in Australia, affecting 2.3 million people aged 16–85 years. On average, it takes 8.2 years for a person with an anxiety or mood disorder to seek help.
NPS MedicineWise medical adviser Dr Jeannie Yoo says there are many reasons why a person may delay seeking help, including difficulty identifying and describing symptoms, concerns about what family or friends might think, or lack of awareness of effective treatments.
“As with other mental health conditions, the GP plays a key role, helping people to realise that they may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, and then exploring the range of treatment options,” says Dr Yoo.
“When a person seeks help for their anxiety, it is important to recognise its deep impact, and provide reassurance that they can access effective help,” she says.
First-line treatments for anxiety disorders include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or an antidepressant such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant or a combination, depending on patient preference and the severity of the disorder. It is important to discuss the options with the patient to help them make an informed treatment decision.
“It is also important to set correct expectations for the treatment,” says Dr Yoo. “Both SSRIs and CBT can take up to 6 weeks to start working, and regardless of which approach is taken, exposure therapy is a crucial part of overall management.”
Lisa Lampe, a member of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Anxiety Disorders Working Group and Associate Professor at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle, has welcomed the new NPS MedicineWise anxiety program.
“Practical recommendations from the new RANZCP clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of adults with panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalised anxiety disorder have been included in educational activities for health professionals across Australia, providing the latest evidence-based diagnosis and treatment recommendations for people with anxiety disorders,” says Assoc Prof Lampe.
The NPS MedicineWise anxiety program includes:
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