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Invited Commentary
October 2017

Prevention of Anxiety Disorders Across the Lifespan

Author Affiliations
  • 1Centre for Emotional Health, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(10):1029-1030. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2430

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders across the lifespan and exact a massive disease burden.1 Anxiety disorders typically onset in childhood and predict a range of later mental health problems, such as depression, suicide, and substance abuse. Despite this, anxiety disorders are frequently underrecognized and overlooked as serious mental health problems. There are a number of factors that influence the limited attention anxiety disorders receive, both in terms of clinical practice and public health policy. The reduced focus is likely in part because of poor mental health literacy. There is a common misconception that anxiety disorders are reserved for the “worried well” and represent a personality flaw rather than a disorder. In addition, anxiety itself is a normal emotion, perhaps leading to misunderstanding surrounding the difference between normal and pathological fear and anxiety. The transient nature of some fears in early childhood may also lead to a misconception that the disorder will remit with time or maturation. For most individuals, anxiety disorders are relatively stable, long-term, and disabling and need to be taken seriously.