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Upon completion of the chapter, the reader will be able to:

  1. Explain the pathophysiologic mechanisms underlying anxiety disorders.

  2. Recognize common presenting symptoms of generalized anxiety, panic, and social anxiety disorder (SAD).

  3. List treatment goals for patients with generalized anxiety, panic, and SAD.

  4. Identify appropriate lifestyle modifications and over-the-counter medication use in these patients.

  5. Compare the efficacy and tolerability profiles of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy interventions for anxiety disorders.

  6. Design a patient-specific pharmacotherapy treatment plan for patients with generalized anxiety, panic, and SAD.

  7. Develop a monitoring plan for patients with anxiety placed on specific medications.

  8. Formulate appropriate educational information to be provided to a patient receiving pharmacotherapy for generalized anxiety, panic, and SAD.


Anxiety disorders are among the most frequent mental disorders encountered by clinicians.1-3 All anxiety disorders are highly comorbid and share features of fear and anxiety that differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive, persistent, and resulting in behavioral disturbances.1 Anxiety disorders are associated with significant patient and family burden, functional impairment, and increased risk of developing comorbid major depressive disorder (MDD).1-4

Initial detection and diagnosis generally falls to primary care clinicians, to whom most patients present in the context of other complaints.4 Anxiety disorders are often missed or attributed incorrectly to other medical illnesses, and most patients are treated inadequately.4 Untreated anxiety disorders are associated with increased health care utilization, morbidity and mortality, and a poorer quality of life.1-4




The lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders collectively is 28.8% with specific phobia (12.5%) and social anxiety disorder (SAD; 12.1%) being the most common.2,3 Data from the National Comorbidity Survey, Revised (NCS-R) estimate the lifetime prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for those 18 years of age and older to be 5.7%, closely followed by panic disorder (PD) at 4.7%.2,3

Anxiety disorders are more prevalent among women than men (2:1).2 Prevalence rates across the anxiety spectrum increase from the younger age group (18–29 years) to older age groups (30–44 and 45–59 years); however, rates are substantially lower for those older than age 59 years.2

Course of Illness

PD and GAD have median ages of onset of 24 and 31 years, respectively, whereas SAD develops earlier (median age 13 years).3 Although GAD and PD may not fully manifest until adulthood, as many as half of adult patients with anxiety report subthreshold symptoms during childhood.5

Anxiety disorders are chronic, and symptoms tend to wax and wane, with fewer than one-third of patients experiencing spontaneous symptom remission....

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