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U.S. task force recommends routine anxiety screening for adults

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

For the first time, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending that adults under age 65 get routine anxiety screenings.

About one in four for men and about 40% of women suffer from anxiety, said Dr. Michael Carnathan, who owns Arrow Primary Care in Bethlehem.

“The U.S. PSTF, who kind of makes these sorts of guidelines, they find that they have moderate certainty that screening has a moderate benefit,” Carnathan said. “So it’s not the strongest recommendation they can make, but it’s still up there.”

Anxiety rising

Carnathan, a primary care physician, said he’s glad to see this type of recommendation because he feels mental health is not talked about enough and he would like to see more help available. He said he has seen more of his patients develop anxiety over the past few years.

“The shutdowns, losing jobs, not working, trying to manage children who are doing school from home and working, of course, there was no doubt the amount of my adults coming in having some sort of anxiety symptom jumped up sharply during the pandemic,” he said.

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“There’s all different types of anxiety questionnaires we can give patients. Depending on the practice, sometimes those are given to patients before the visit, other times we can do it right in person, depending on how much time we have.”

The test Carnathan uses to screen his patients is seven questions that determine whether someone is suffering, how severe their anxiety may be and how well they are able to cope.

Patients would like to see more

Leona Roberts, who lives in Mertztown near Kutztown, suffers from anxiety.

“I get overwhelmed really easily by the simplest little things,” Roberts said. “It’s just someone looks at me the wrong way, someone says something so innocent, I can take it in a completely different manner, and get very upset and lash out very angry over stupid things.”

Roberts said she would like to see more done when it comes to evaluating people with anxiety.

“I think if they want to honestly do this testing every year,” she said. “I think it needs to be something more intuitive to someone’s life and things like that versus something just written on a piece of paper for you to answer questions.”

She added that even just asking someone the questions face-to-face can be more effective than having people write their answers.

Carnathan offered treatment options and said the best thing to do if someone is feeling anxious is to talk to a doctor or a therapist about some ways to work through it.

“We know that the best way to treat anxiety is a combination of treatments,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle, so that means you’re treating your body right, eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and meditating.

“It’s going to be therapy, so talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and then sometimes medications can be helpful.”

Read more from our partners, WLVR.