Healthcare providers are usually aware that depression occurs commonly among people suffering from chronic pain. However, the findings of a new study suggest that such patients should also be screened for various anxiety disorders, since those could be linked to higher pain levels and quality of life issues related to pain, the Health Behavior News Service of the Center for Advancing Health has reported.
Kurt Kroenke, professor of medicine at Indiana University and lead author of the report published in General Hospital Psychiatry, headed a team of researchers who examined 250 primary care patients suffering from moderate to severe chronic pain in their joints or backs. The subjects, treated at a Midwest medical centre for veterans, had been suffering from chronic pain for at least three months despite taking pain medication.
The researchers screened the patients for five commonly occurring anxiety disorders: generalised anxiety, panic, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In addition, they evaluated the sample for quality of life issues related to health, for example fatigue, sleep patterns and work productivity.
The analysis showed that 45% of the subjects screened positive for at least one common anxiety disorder. Those belonging to that group also reported much higher pain levels than patients with no such disorders, as well as significantly worse health-related quality of life. Kroenke noted that in some cases the patients might have nothing more than anxiety symptoms and active treatment would not be required. Nevertheless, the study results suggest that at least one in five patients may be suffering from some type of anxiety disorder and screening for such problems should be given more emphasis, he added.