The Rand Corporation recently released the results of a small study which they did which found that anxiety disorders experienced by patients in a primary care physicians office are more debilitating than many chronic health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, and patients with depression and anxiety can have impairment in functioning equal to or greater than chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These findings lead to the recommendations that PCPs be more alert to psychiatric symptoms and aggressively treat them in their patients. I am assuming that this means with medications since most PCPs do not have the time or training to deal with these disorders through psychotherapy.
Here is part of what the Rand Fact Sheet says about this study:
Most mental health care — especially care for common disorders such as anxiety and depression — in the United States is provided by primary care physicians rather than mental health specialists. Although efforts to detect and treat depression have received much attention in the last ten years, relatively little research has been done on anxiety disorders in primary care settings, despite the fact that anxiety disorders are encountered in primary care even more frequently than depression. Primary care providers would benefit from a clearer understanding of these disorders and the burden they impose on a patient’s overall health. A team from RAND and a group of major universities examined the impact of anxiety disorders (posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia) on patient health among 480 adult patients who had visited a primary care physician.
The study found that patients with anxiety disorders were likely to have both physical and mental impairment and overall poor quality of health.