Objective: Quality-of-life indices have been used in medical practice to estimate the impact of different diseases on functioning and well-being and to compare outcomes between different treatment modalities. An integrated view of the issue of quality of life in patients with anxiety disorders can provide important information regarding the nature and extent of the burden associated with these disorders and may be useful in the development of strategies to deal with it.
Method: A review of epidemiological and clinical studies that have investigated quality of life (broadly conceptualized) in patients with panic disorder, social phobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder was conducted by searching MEDLINE and PsycLIT citations from 1984 to 1999. A summary of the key articles published in this area is presented.
Results: The studies reviewed portray an almost uniform picture of anxiety disorders as illnesses that markedly compromise quality of life and psychosocial functioning. Significant impairment can also be found in individuals with subthreshold forms of anxiety disorders. Effective pharmacological or psychotherapeutic treatment has been shown to improve the quality of life for patients with panic disorder, social phobia, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Limitations in current knowledge in this area are identified, and suggestions for needed future research are provided.
Conclusions: It is expected that a more thorough understanding of the impact on quality of life will lead to increased public awareness of anxiety disorders as serious mental disorders worthy of further investment in research, prevention, and treatment.