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What are the current recommendations for the long-term treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)? GAD is a common disorder with a lifetime prevalence of 4% to 7% in the general population. GAD is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable worry or anxiety about a number of events or activities that the individual experiences on more days than not over a 6-month period. Onset of GAD symptoms usually occurs during an individual's early twenties; however, high rates of GAD have also been seen in children and adolescents. The clinical course of GAD is often chronic, with 40% of patients reporting illness lasting >5 years. GAD is associated with pronounced functional impairment, resulting in decreased vocational function and reduced quality of life. Patients with GAD tend to be high users of outpatient medical care, which contributes significantly to healtcare costs. Currently, benzodiazepines and buspirone are prescribed frequently to treat GAD. Although both show efficacy in acute treatment trials, few long-term studies have been perform Benzodiazepines are not recommended for long-term treatment of GAD, due to associated development of tolerance, psychomotor impairment, cognitive and memory changes, physical dependence, and a withdrawal reaction on discontinuation. The antidepressant venlafaxine extended-release (XR) has received approval for the treatment of GAD in the United States and many other countries. Venlafaxine XR has demonstrated efficacy over placebo in two randomized treatment trials of 6 months' duration as well as in other acute trials. Paroxetine is the first of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to receive US approval for the treatment of GAD. Paroxetine demonstrated superiority to placebo in short-term trials, and investigations into the use of other SSRIs are ongoing. This suggests that other SSRIs, and serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors, are likely to be effective in the treatment of GAD. Of the psychological therapies, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) shows the greatest benefit in treating GAD patients. Treatment gains after a 12-week course of CBT may be maintained for up to 1 year. Currently, no guidelines exist for the long-term treatment of GAD.
What is the best approach for treating patients with social phobia (social anxiety disorder) over the long term? Social phobia is the most common anxiety disorder, with reported prevalence rates of up to 18.7%. Social phobia is characterized by a marked and persistent fear of being observed or evaluated by others in social performance or interaction situations and is associated with physical, cognitive, and behavioral (ie, avoidance) symptoms. The onset of social phobia typically occurs in childhood or adolescence and the clinical course, if left untreated, is usually chronic, unremitting, and associated with significant functional impairment. Social phobia exhibits a high degree of comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse/dependence. Few people with social phobia seek professional help despite the existence of beneficial treatment approaches. The efficacy, tolerability, and safety of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), evidenced in randomized clinical trials, support these agents as first-line treatment. The benzodiazepine clonazepam and certain monoamine oxidase inhibitors (representing both reversible and nonreversible inhibitors) may also be of benefit. Treatment of social phobia may need to be continued for several months to consolidate response and achieve full remission. The SSRIs have shown benefit in longterm treatment trials, while long-term treatment data from clinical studies of clonazepam are limited but support the drug's efficacy. There is also evidence for the effectiveness of exposure-based strategies of cognitive-behavioral therapy, and controlled studies suggest that the effects of treatment are generally maintained at long-term follow-up. In light of the chronicity and disability associated with social phobia, as well as the high relapse rate after short-term therapy, it is recommended that effective treatment be continued for at least 12 months.
What are the symptoms of panic disorder and how is the disorder most effectively treated? One of the most commonly encountered anxiety disorders in the primary care setting, panic disorder is a chronic and debilitating illness. The core symptoms are recurrent panic attacks coupled with anticipatory anxiety and phobic avoidance, which together impair the patient's professional, social, and familial functioning. Patients with panic disorder have medically unexplained symptoms that lead to overutilization of healthcare services. Panic disorder is often comorbid with agoraphobia and major depression, and patients may be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and, possibly, suicide. Research into the optimal treatment of this disorder has been undertaken in the past 2 decades, and numerous randomized, controlled trials have been published. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have emerged as the most favorable treatment, as they have a beneficial side-effect profile, are relatively safe (even if taken in overdose), and do not produce physical dependency. High-potency benzodiazepines, reversible monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants, have also shown antipardc efficacy. In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy has demonstrated efficacy in the acute and long-term treatment of panic disorder. A n integrated treatment approach that combines pharmacotherapy with cognitive-behavioral therapy may provide the best treatment. Long-term efficacy and ease of use are important considerations in treatment selection, as maintenance treatment is recommended for at least 12–24 months, and in some cases, indefinitely.
Patients with comorbid major depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) tend to have a more severe and prolonged course of illness and greater functional impairment. GAD is one of the most common mental disorders in primary medical-care settings, and is associated with increased use of health services. Current theories on pathological anxiety fit a multifactorial epigenetic model that integrates early stressors, inherited and acquired vulnerabilities, and the risks of developing interrelated or coincidental somatic diseases. The tolerability profile of prescribed medication is an important consideration, particularly when long-term treatment is recommended. Distressing symptoms on stopping treatment are common with many classes of psychotropic drug, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and benzodiazepines. There is clearly room for improvement in the development of more efficacious and more acceptable pharmacological approaches to the management of this common, distressing, typically disabling, and often persistent anxiety disorder.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) has received less study than other anxiety disorders, particularly its long-term treatment.
To assess the efficacy and safety of venlafaxine extended release (ER) in patients with GAD.
A total of 541 out-patients, 18–86 years old, were recruited to this 24-week, placebo-controlled, double-blind study of three fixed doses (37.5, 75 and 150 mg/day) of venlafaxine ER.
All doses of venlafaxine ER showed efficacy superior to placebo, apparent from week 2, that was sustained throughout the 24-week study for the two higher doses. The discontinuation rate did not differ significantly among the treatment groups.
Venlafaxine ER is an effective and safe treatment for GAD for up to 6 months.
In a cohort of 50 465 Swedish men conscripted for military service in 1969–70, the relative risk for suicide was 3.1 (95% CI 2.3–4.0) among those who had a psychiatric diagnosis at conscription, and 16.7 (95% CI 13.8–20.1) among those who had a psychiatric diagnosis in in-patient care during a 13-year follow-up. Of the diagnoses at conscription, only neurotic disorder, personality disorder and drug dependence were associated with a significantly increased risk for future suicide. Among those who were admitted to hospital, almost all inpatient diagnoses were associated with a significantly increased suicide risk. Although a psychiatric diagnosis in in-patient care was a strong predictor of suicide, only 44% of all 247 men who committed suicide had ever been treated in in-patient psychiatric care.
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