Global Medical Education's Founder, Prakash Masand, MD, says that Anxiety Disorders are the Most Common Mental Illness

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Prakash Masand, MD, is former consulting professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, a New York City psychiatrist, and founder and CEO of Global Medical Education (GME), says that anxiety disorders are among the most common, yet most misunderstood mental illness. As part of Mental Illness Week, he offers the facts below about anxiety disorders in an effort to help shed light on this debilitating illness.

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"Nineteen million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, with a lifetime prevalence of nearly 29%. Its important to understand this illness as the likelihood that you or someone you know will suffer from it is high." - Prakash Masand, MD

Prakash Masand, MD, Founder and CEO of Global Medical Education, offers his top 10 facts about anxiety disorders:

1.    Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the world. In the United States, 19 million adults are affected by anxiety disorders. (1)

2.    There are six primary anxiety disorders (2):

  • Generalized Anxiety: Excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.
  • Panic Disorder: Feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning.
  • OCD: Constant thoughts or fears that cause someone to perform certain rituals or routines.
  • PTSD: Can develop following a traumatic or terrifying event (like war combat)
  • Social Anxiety: Overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations
  • Specific Phobia: A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as spiders, heights or flying.

3.    Psychological symptoms of anxiety disorders include: stressed out, burned out, scared, worried, frightened, panicky and irritable. Physical symptoms include: shakiness, disturbed sleep, palpitations, headaches, chest tightness, stomach ‘twisted up in knots.” (3)

4.    The mean age of onset of anxiety disorders is the young age of 11 years old. The lifetime prevalence of developing an anxiety disorder is 28.8%. (4)

5.    While anxiety disorders can be debilitating, with proper treatment most people can lead a fairly normal life. Famous people who have had an anxiety disorder: Jessica Alba, Heather Locklear, Whoopi Goldberg, David Beckham, Howie Mandel, John Mayer, and Charlize Theron.

6.    Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, but only one-third of those who suffer receive treatment. Medication treatment includes benzodiazepines; SSRIs, SNRIs and other new generation antidepressants; atypical antipsychotics; as well as augmentation therapies. Psychotherapy treatment includes cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation training and prolonged exposure therapy, as well as yoga and meditation. (5)

7.    Anxiety disorders are found to exist at higher rates in people with asthma, hypertension, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, chronic headaches and back and neck pain. In more than 70% of these cases, anxiety disorders came first. (6)

8.    The exact cause of anxiety disorders is not fully known, but a number of factors appear to contribute to its development including brain chemistry, genetics and environment.

9.    Anxiety disorders are often comorbid with other disorders. 59.2% of all patients with major depression had an anxiety disorder. More than 40% of individuals with bipolar disorders have an anxiety disorder. (7) (8)

10.    People with an anxiety disorder are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than non-sufferers. Overall, anxiety disorders are associated with a 3 fold increased risk for suicide attempts. (9) (10)

About Global Medical Education
Global Medical Education is a free online medical education resource that provides timely, unbiased, evidence-based medical education and online medical information from the world's leading experts to health care professionals around the world.

1.    Adapted from Anxiety Disorders Association of America (AADA) website
2.    DSM-5
3.    DSM-5
4.    Kessler RC, Berglund PA, Demler O, Jin R, Walters EE. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;62(6):593-602
5.    Adapted from Anxiety Disorders Association of America (AADA) website
6.    Sareen, J, Jacobi, F, et al. Disability and Poor Quality of Life Associated With Comorbid Anxiety Disorders and Physical Conditions. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:2109-2116
7.    Kessler RC et al. JAMA. 2003;289:3095-3105
8.    Merikangas KR, et al. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64:543-552
9.    Adapted from Anxiety Disorders Association of America (AADA) website
10.    Kessler et al. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999;56:617

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Angela Masand
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