Whether it’s a mammogram, pap smear, or colonoscopy, regular screenings can be life savers when it comes to catching and treating diseases early.

But there’s a new recommendation for all adults under the age of 65: anxiety screenings.

Here’s what you need to know.

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Anxiety screenings are now recommended annually for adults.

All adults under 65 should be screened for anxiety according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The recommendation mirrors a similar one released in 2022 for children.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five American adults has an anxiety disorder.

“I’m a big fan of the recommendation for two reasons: Stigma and the challenge of self-evaluation,” says Stephen Macari, MD, a primary care provider with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group in Stamford.

> Related: What to Do About Work Anxiety: A Therapist’s Top 3 Tips

It can be hard to know when your anxiety is a problem.

Even though anxiety disorders are so widespread, many people are not aware of changes in their mental health, Dr. Macari says.

“People who slowly develop anxiety may not be aware of how much has changed for them. It can be hard to self-evaluate when the part of our body we use to self-evaluate isn’t working at 100%,” he notes.

And the stigma of mental health may stop you from seeking help.

Stigma around mental health prevents many people from seeking the help they need, even for something as common as anxiety, Dr. Macari continues.

“Even if a small percentage of people are unwilling to start that conversation for fear of looking ‘weak,’ the screening can make doctors aware of what’s happening and how patients can be struggling,” he says.

Adults – unlike their youthful counterparts – may be even more worried about the stigma of anxiety.

“It’s like other mental health issues – there is a greater awareness of anxiety in younger patients and they are less concerned about stigma so they seek help and talk about it more readily,” he says.

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6 signs your anxiety is interfering with your life.

Regular screenings should help address the point at which anxiety interferes with one’s ability to live a happy, productive life, according to the Task Force.

“Almost everyone experiences anxiety – it’s a natural emotion in stressful situations,” Dr. Macari says. “It’s a natural instinct to protect ourselves from danger. However, it becomes a disorder when the system begins to overreact.”

Signs of trouble include:

  1. Finding it harder to be happy or function in life.
  2. Thoughts of real or imagined threats that lead to panic attacks.
  3. Persistent fears that make it hard to relax and interfere with relationships.
  4. Feelings of restlessness
  5. Physical signs like increased heart rate, sweating and trembling
  6. Trouble concentrating

Anxiety can be especially challenging for older adults.

With his older patients, Dr. Macari is keenly aware of the troublesome nature of anxiety, specifically if it:

  • Causes increased isolation
  • Leads to social withdrawal
  • Decreases physical and social activity

“Those can all have major health impacts. In addition, we have to be more careful about treating anxiety in older people as they are more likely to be on medications that could interact with the condition or have more side effects from certain medications,” he says.

If you’re worried about anxiety, talk to your doctor.

The biggest takeaway for Dr. Macari is that health is health – whether it’s mental or physical.

“At the end of the day, it’s about health, and mental health is just as important as any other part of the body. Whether it’s medication, therapy or both, we want to work on moving away from dysfunction and back toward function. People deserve to thrive at all stages of life,” he says.