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Group urges women get screened for anxiety

A woman smiling from her front porch.

July 3, 2020—Women: Don't be surprised if your doctor asks about your anxiety levels at your next appointment.

The Women's Preventive Services Initiative (WPSI) has recommended that all females age 13 and older be screened for anxiety. The bonus point? The recommendation means screening for anxiety would be covered by insurance with no cost-sharing.

The move was hailed by a number of medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Physician Assistants and American Psychiatric Association.

In making the recommendation, the WPSI noted the high prevalence of anxiety disorders in women. Estimates are that anxiety disorders are more than twice as common among women as among men.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents too. An estimated 8% of teens ages 13 to 18 have an anxiety disorder.

The WPSI also noted the multiple problems associated with untreated anxiety. Anxiety disorders can raise the risk for or complicate other health issues, such as:

  • Heart disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Irritable bowel disorder.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Depression.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is worry, nervousness or fear about an event or situation, according to the Office on Women's Health. It isn't always a bad thing; it can help prompt you to study harder for an exam or remain focused on a work project.

But it also can be disabling if it interferes with your daily life. It can make you dread regular activities like riding the bus, going to work or school, or spending time with friends and family. An anxiety disorder can cause a sudden attack of terror where there is no threat.

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Weakness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Nausea.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Hot flashes.
  • Dizziness.

Is anxiety treatable?

According to the National Institutes of Health, anxiety disorders are one of the most treatable of mental health conditions.

Treatment often includes a type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy. Medications also may be used.

If you think you have anxiety, make an appointment to talk to your doctor about it. Help is available.

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