[Cross-sectional study of the prevalence of adjustment disorder with anxiety in general practice]

W Semaan, T Hergueta, J Bloch, Y Charpak, A Duburcq, M E Le Guern, C Alquier, F Rouillon
L'Encéphale 2001, 27 (3): 238-44
Although Adjustment Disorder (AD) is considered a marginal diagnostic category by many clinicians and researchers, all the rare studies undertaken in the last decades indicate that the prevalence of this disorder is high in psychiatric settings, but has never been investigated in general practice. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the current prevalence of Adjustment Disorders With Anxiety (ADWA) in primary care settings and to describe the characteristics of the population, nature of the stressors and management of the disorder by General Practitioners (GPs). This French study involved 78 random liberal GPs, in 7 distinct regions (Paris, Lille, Bordeaux, Rouen, Dijon, Castres and Compiègne). GPs had to register all the consecutive attenders over 18 years old. For each physician, the registration period was over when 200 patients were registered, or 10 days of consultation were completed, or when 5 MINI had been performed. The average study period was 10 days per physician. At the first stage, they selected all the patients with psychological complaints, which were eventually associated to physical complaints. At the second stage, only the patients whose complaints were linked to a psychosocial stressor and without A1 and/or A2 DSM IV criteria for a Major Depressive Episode (MDE) were proposed the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI). The MINI is a brief structured clinical diagnostic interview that identifies the main axis-I DSM IV diagnoses in about 15 minutes. Before starting the study, all of the GPs participated in an intensive course on AD criteria recognition and were trained to use the MINI. The GPs registered a total of 7,759 consecutive patients. Twenty-two per cent (n = 1,719) of the patients reported psychological complaints, associated or not to physical complaints. Among them, 49% (n = 844) linked their complaints to identifiable psychosocial stressors. About half of the latter (n = 450) coded positive to A1 and/or A2 criteria for MDE. At the end, a total of 314 patients agreed to complete the MINI. Among the 1,719 patients with psychological complaints, the prevalence of ADWA eventually associated to other psychiatric disorders was 9.2%. The prevalence of "pure" ADWA was 4.5%. When considering the whole population of consecutive patients in primary care settings, the prevalence of pure ADWA was 1.0%. Patients suffering from pure ADWA were mostly women (66.7%), young patients (mean age: 42 years), with a professional activity. Patients had a psychiatric disorder history in 53.8% of the cases (mostly anxiety disorder). The main life events cited as being responsible for the disorder were work-associated problems (23.1%), followed by family illness (9.0%) and serious personal illness or accident (7.7%). The average duration of the disorder was 2.32 months. In 91% of the cases, GPs estimated that the patient required a pharmacological or psychological treatment. In most cases, they treated the patients with drug therapy (74.0%) associated with psychological support (counselling or psychotherapy, 76%). Anxiolytic agents were usually prescribed (64.9%), followed by antidepressants (10.8%) and hypnotics (8.1%). In conclusion, this first prevalence study of ADWA in general practice demonstrates that this disorder is frequent in primary care. It seems to be more present in patients who are of working age, especially women. ADWA would thus seem to preferentially affect active subjects. In most cases, GPs treat their patients with both psychological support and drug therapy. Anxiolytic is the elicited treatment of this disorder.

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