Anxious About the Rise of Anxiety Diagnoses

Doctor & PatientOn June 7, 2014, Doc Zone aired the documentary Age of Anxiety. This documentary takes a closer look at anxiety and how it is becoming a more prevalent diagnosis in today’s society. Along with this ever increasing diagnosis, comes an increase in the prescription of anti-anxiety medications. The documentary looks at how anxiety pills seem to be prescribed to help people deal with everyday life. Additionally, there is concern that changing the definition of anxiety in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) can qualify more people as having an anxiety disorder. This broader definition, in turn, contributes to anxiety becoming more mainstream.

Other reasons the diagnosis of anxiety is on the rise, according to the documentary, is because the diagnosis is based on self reporting rather than an objective test. Also, GPs are too busy which promotes prescribing a pill as the easiest solution. And, pharmaceutical companies are eager to market to these busy GPs.

The documentary emphasizes the need to find the threshold between who does and who does not have a mental illness so people can be properly diagnosed and treated. That is, there must be a point at which someone has an anxiety disorder and a point where they do not. Everyone experiences anxiety at points in their lives, but this does not necessarily mean they have an anxiety disorder requiring medical treatment in the form of prescribed medications.

This also has implications for the fields of vocational rehabilitation and disability management where there is still heavy reliance on medical documentation to qualify individuals for disability claims and services. If people are diagnosed with anxiety disorders who, in the past, would not have been, do they actually have a functional impairment contributing to a disability? Are workplace accommodations required? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please leave us a comment.

Click here to watch the full Doc Zone episode.