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J Anxiety Disord. 2006;20(3):363-71.

Delays in referral of patients with social phobia, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder attending a specialist anxiety clinic.

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  • 1Clinic for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress at Bankstown Hospital, and School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, NSW, Australia.


Individuals with anxiety disorders experience substantial delays in obtaining treatment, but little is known about whether people with specific anxiety subcategories are differentially affected. The present study used a modified Encounter Form to examine the cause and length of delays in reaching primary care and specialist services amongst patients with panic disorder (PD/PD-Ag), social phobia (SP), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Participants were 142 consecutive patients attending a specialist anxiety clinic in South Western Sydney. On average, participants with SP took much longer to consult a primary health care provider. Primary care assessments of those with SP often failed to detect anxiety as the key problem, and subsequently, those with SP reported longer delays in reaching specialist care (>9 years). It is not possible to extrapolate the findings to all individuals with SP, as the study was based on specialist service attenders. Nevertheless, the data supports previous findings in suggesting that SP may not be well-recognized as a disorder needing treatment, either by the patient or the primary health care provider. Appropriate educational programs seem warranted to ensure appropriate treatment for this condition.

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