Good News for People with Persistent Anxiety


TUESDAY, Jan. 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) — A diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder need not be a life sentence, a large Canadian study suggests.

“It’s so exciting,” said lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging at the University of Toronto.

People with generalized anxiety disorder worry excessively for long periods, and most days they struggle to control their discomfort, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety affects an estimated 31% of U.S. adults, is almost twice as common in women than men, and often goes hand-in-hand with major depression.

Fuller-Thomson’s team combed data from a 2012 Canadian mental health survey of just over 21,000 people in search of factors associated with “complete mental health.” Of those surveyed, about 2,100 had generalized anxiety disorders.

Researchers defined complete mental health as being free of current mental illness, being able to function well and feeling good about oneself, relationships and community connections.

Of those with a history of anxiety, 72% were in remission; 58% were free of all mental illness for the past year; and 40% met the criteria for complete mental health.

Among the larger group of respondents who had never had a generalized anxiety disorder, 76% were said to have complete mental health.

“I didn’t expect the numbers to be so high,” Fuller-Thomson said. “It did surprise me.”

The study did not look at the types of treatment respondents tried — that information wasn’t available, Fuller-Thomson said — so no conclusions could be drawn about which might be most successful.

Researchers did examine a host of variables that affected respondents, both positively and negatively. These included sex, race, age, education, income and marital status; presence or history of physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, insomnia and debilitating pain; and use of religion as a coping mechanism.

The paper was published online Jan. 8 in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Dr. Ken Duckworth is a psychiatrist and medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Health who was not involved in the study. He called the findings “a breath of fresh air.”

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