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Original Research

Knowledge About Recommended Treatment and Management of Major Depressive Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder Among Family Physicians

David Katerndahl, MD, MA, and Robert L. Ferrer, MD, MPH

Published: August 13, 2004

Article Abstract

Background: Concerns have been raised about whether primary care physicians appropriately manage mental disorders. We assessed family physicians’ knowledge of appropriate management of major depressive disorder (MDD), panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Method: Active members of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians (N = 3553) were mailed a questionnaire in 2002 asking them to indicate which treatments they felt were effective for MDD, panic disorder, and GAD and also to indicate how they had treated their last patient with each disorder. Their treatment strategies were then compared with current guidelines.

Results: 574 physicians (16%) responded. The percentage of respondents scoring at or above 80% for knowledge of effective treatments was 88.3% for MDD, 16.8% for panic disorder, and 12.5% for GAD (p < .001 for MDD vs. panic disorder or GAD). Only 0.3% of MDD patients, 1.4% of panic disorder patients, and 4.0% of GAD patients were not prescribed at least 1 of the effective treatments. Referral rates to mental health providers were high for all 3 conditions.

Conclusions: There were significant gaps in physician knowledge of current guidelines on treating panic disorder and GAD, but not MDD. However, most patients with one of the disorders were either referred to a mental health provider or treated with an effective modality.

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