Background. The social costs of anxiety disorders, which afflict a substantial proportion of the general population in the United States, are considered.
Method. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Epidemiological Catchment Area Program were analysed.
Results. Over 6% of men and 13% of women in the sample of 18 571 had suffered from a DSM–III anxiety disorder in the past six months. Nearly 30% of those with panic disorder had used the general medical system for emotional, alcohol or drug-related problems in the six months prior to the interview. Those with anxiety disorders were also more likely to seek help from emergency rooms and from the specialised mental health system. Men with panic disorder, phobias or obsessive–compulsive disorder in the previous six months are more likely to be chronically unemployed and to receive disability or welfare.
Discussion. Once correctly diagnosed there are safe and effective psychopharmacologic and behavioural treatments for the anxiety disorders. Nevertheless the burden of anxiety disorders extends beyond the direct costs of treatment to the indirect costs of impaired social functioning.