Anxiety disorders: prevalence and treatment.
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A method is reported for classifying survey respondents according to syndromes resembling some of the anxiety disorders as defined by DSM III, using responses to a standard clinical symptom checklist administered on a large scale in the U.S.A. by trained survey interviewers in the 1979 National Survey of Psychotherapeutic Drug Use. These syndromes ('agoraphobia/panic', 'other phobia', and 'generalized anxiety') have several characteristics consistent with their DSM III diagnostic counterparts. They show 1-year prevalence rates of 1.2%, 2.3%, and 6.4%, respectively, roughly in accord with the limited relevant epidemiological data available. The prevalence of these anxiety syndromes is lower than clinical lore suggests. The very low prevalence of use of antidepressants (8%) and the much higher rate of use of anti-anxiety agents (55%) among agoraphobics are surprising. The infrequent use of anti-anxiety agents among respondents with generalized anxiety (27%) also is noteworthy. These findings suggest that the majority of persons with serious anxiety disorders still do not receive treatment or the most appropriate treatment, although other possible interpretations of the data also are considered.