Australian Family Physician
Australian Family Physician


Volume 40, Issue 6, June 2011

Anxiety disorders Assessment and management in general practice

Michael Kyrios Richard Moulding Maja Nedeljkovic
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Anxiety is a normal physiological response to a threat. Anxiety disorders occur when this normal physiological response is associated with high levels of autonomic arousal, erroneous cognitions and dysfunctional coping strategies. Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent and present commonly to general practice. Anxiety disorders are often comorbid with other psychiatric and medical disorders and may be associated with significant morbidity.
This article describes the diagnosis, assessment and management of anxiety disorders in the general practice setting.
Assessment in patients presenting with anxiety symptoms involves excluding a medical cause, identifying features of specific anxiety disorders as well as other coexisting psychiatric disorders, and assessing the degree of distress. Management options include psychoeducation, psychological treatments (particularly cognitive behaviour therapy) and pharmacological treatments. Patients with a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder can access Medicare funded psychological care under a number of Australian government initiatives. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are the first line pharmacological agents used to treat anxiety disorders. Regular review is vital to monitor for clinical improvement and more complex presentations may require specialist psychological or psychiatric referral.

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