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Much anticipated guidelines provide most up-to-date advice for treatment of anxiety disorders

04 December 2018
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has published new clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of adults with panic disorder, social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (ANZJP), the guidelines are a culmination of a comprehensive four-year process of consultation and development.

The President of RANZCP, Dr Kym Jenkins said: ‘The new guidelines are the result of an extensive process of collection and appraisal of evidence which has involved health professionals, stakeholder organisations, expert peer review and people with a lived experience of anxiety disorders.

‘Although anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health conditions in Australia and New Zealand, many people with anxiety do not seek treatment.

‘It is our hope that these new guidelines will help address this issue by clearly outlining the conditions and evidence for the treatment of adults with these three types of anxiety disorder,’ Dr Jenkins said.

Associate Professor Lisa Lampe, a member of the RANZCP Anxiety Disorders Working Group which produced the guidelines, said they would provide health professionals in Australia and New Zealand with the most up-to-date guidance and advice on how to manage these disorders.

‘We know not all anxiety is bad for us; it is normal and healthy to feel anxious sometimes and it can even improve the way we perform. For example, those manageable levels of anxiety experienced prior to playing sport or engaging in public speaking.

‘The problem is that high levels of anxiety can reduce a person’s ability to think, plan and do complex tasks,’ said Associate Professor Lampe.

‘The anxiety disorders discussed in these guidelines can cause months and years of distress and can be very disabling.’

Around one in three of us will have an anxiety disorder at some point in our lives, with one in seven adults suffering from an anxiety disorder in any year.

Associate Professor Caroline Bell, also a member of the working group and based in Christchurch, emphasises that while anxiety disorders do not usually go away by themselves, effective treatments are available.

‘There are a range of pragmatic treatment approaches, beginning with psychoeducation and advice on lifestyle factors, followed by initial treatment options for all three anxiety disorders.

‘Initial treatment is selected in collaboration with the patient from evidence-based options, taking into account symptom severity, patient preference, accessibility and cost.

‘When possible, the patient’s family or significant others should be involved in the planning decisions and in supporting the person through their treatment.

‘The treatments include cognitive­–behavioural therapy (face-to-face or delivered by computer, tablet or smart-phone application), pharmacotherapy or a combination of both of these,’ said Associate Professor Bell.

‘The desired health outcome for treatment is simple: that people recover, stay well and are able to get on with living an independent and rewarding life.’

The new guidelines are intended for use by psychiatrists, physicians, general practitioners, psychologists in primary care, community mental health and specialist practice in Australia and New Zealand.

To view the guidelines, see: RANZCP Anxiety Clinical Practice Guidelines.

For access to the ANZJP journal article, see: RANZCP clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalised anxiety disorder (subscription required).

For consumer information on anxiety, see: Anxiety disorders – your guide.
ENQUIRIES: Andy Newton at or +61 437 315 911

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit

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