Objective: Several studies have suggested that many patients with anxiety disorders present in nonpsychiatric medical settings such as primary care facilities, emergency services, and general practice. This study examined the prevalence of panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder among patients admitted to the general emergency service at an urban medical center in Israel.
Methods: Four groups totaling 517 patients were assessed. The groups consisted of patients presenting with somatic complaints for whom no physical condition was diagnosed, patients with somatic complaints found to have a physical disorder, a group of nonpsychiatric consecutive admissions to the emergency service, and a group of referrals to the psychiatric emergency service.
Results: The prevalence of panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder in the entire sample was 2.7 percent, which is comparable to the prevalence rates reported in various community studies. However, the prevalence among patients with somatic complaints but no physical disorder was 6.7 percent, significantly higher than in the nonpsychiatric comparison groups. The prevalence in the group of psychiatric referrals was 4.8 percent.
Conclusions: A population at risk for higher prevalence of anxiety disorders can be identified among patients seen in an emergency service. Physicians in primary care settings and general emergency services should consider anxiety disorders in the differential diagnosis of patients with somatic complaints but without a diagnosis of physical disorder.