, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 333-346

Anxiety disorders in neurologic illness

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Opinion statement

  • Anxiety disorders frequently occur in individuals with neurologic illness. Anxiety may be a symptom of or a reaction to the neurologic disorder, a medication side effect, or a comorbid condition. The most common anxiety disorders seen in neurologic patients are panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Very often, these conditions go unrecognized (and therefore untreated) or are attributed to being a normal response to having a neurologic illness. However, if they are not treated, anxiety disorders can significantly increase morbidity and mortality in neurologic patients.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) should be considered the first-line of pharmacologic treatment, because they offer a broad spectrum of efficacy in the anxiety disorders, are generally well tolerated, and are effective in treating comorbid depression. Benzodiazepines, although most effective for acute anxiety, are now considered adjunctive or second-line treatments.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy and other behavioral treatments are effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders. They should be considered primary treatments for patients who cannot tolerate or prefer not to take medications.