Treatment Typically Provided for Comorbid Anxiety Disorders

Published in: Archives of Family Medicine, v. 6, no. 3, May 1997, p. 231-237

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1996

by Lisa S. Meredith, Cathy D. Sherbourne, Catherine A. Jackson, Patricia Camp, Kenneth B. Wells

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OBJECTIVE: To study whether the extent and type of treatment for comorbid anxiety disorders varies for patients with depression, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease treated by general medical clinicians. METHODS: Data are from 2189 general medical patients with and without comorbid anxiety disorders in the Medical Outcomes Study. Treatment data were based on clinician reports of counseling provided during a visit and patient reports of recent medication use. RESULTS: Patients with comorbid anxiety disorders were more likely to receive treatments for anxiety disorders than those without anxiety disorders. Among those with anxiety disorders, the use of psychosocial counseling and psychotropic medication was greater for patients with depression than for patients without depression who had chronic medical conditions. Minor tranquilizers were used more commonly than antidepressants, regardless of the type of comorbid condition. Among patients with anxiety disorders, those visiting medical subspecialists were more likely to use minor tranquilizers than those visiting family practitioners or internists. Patients of family physicians with chronic medical conditions (but not with depression) were less likely than similar patients of internists to use minor tranquilizers whether or not anxiety disorders were present. CONCLUSIONS: Anxiety disorders co-occurring with another disease (medical illness or depression) increases the likelihood of counseling and the use of psychotropic medication in the general medical sector. Patients with a chronic medical illness with or without comorbid anxiety disorders visiting family physicians are less likely to use minor tranquilizers than those visiting subspecialists or internists.

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