Screening for anxiety disorders is now recommended for all adults as a part of their annual physical.
The recommendation – which comes from a highly influential panel of independent medical experts – is intended to help individuals with common mental health conditions that often go unrecognized in primary care settings, which can delay treatment. The recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force applies to adults ages 19 to 65, including those that are pregnant and postpartum.
The task force made its recommendation after a systematic review of the benefits and harms of anxiety screenings. The task force sets the standards for preventive care and screening tests offered at annual physicals and is widely followed by the health care system.
“Anxiety disorders are common and treatable – yet without a provider asking the right questions, they can be easily overlooked in an annual physical,” said Dr. Kristyn Gregory, medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “Asking a patient questions about their mental health is just as important to understanding their overall well-being as are questions about physical health issues like pain and behaviors like exercise, substance use and diet.”
It's estimated that 19% of U.S. adults experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year, and 31% of adults will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
The new guidance to screen all adults for anxiety disorders aligns with the task force’s recommendation from 2016 to add screening for depression as a preventive care measure. While depression and anxiety are separate disorders, they can occur at the same time; and at times, anxiety can be a symptom of clinical depression.
Similar to screenings for depression, screenings for anxiety do not provide a diagnosis – rather, they must be confirmed with a diagnostic assessment.
“By including anxiety screening as a more standard practice in the primary care setting, we can continue to emphasize the importance of a patient’s whole health,” Gregory said. “The more providers can understand about a patient’s mental health the swifter and more prescriptive they can be in treatment recommendations and referrals to get their patient the help they need.”
While there are different types of anxiety disorders, they all can be characterized by disproportionate and constant fears of everyday life events. These fears are often connected to behaviors like restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability or sleep problems – which can interfere with daily activities like job performance, schoolwork and relationships.
Anxiety disorders can include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Selective mutism
- Anxiety not otherwise specified
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below:
PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382
- A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7.
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982
- Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider.
- Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth.