Anxiety is common in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and has been shown to increase functional disability and decrease quality of life, but atypical presentations of anxiety are underrecognized and often undertreated in PD patients, wrote Nadeeka N. Dissanayaka, PhD, of the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues.
In a study published in the, the researchers conducted a systematic review of 60 studies to better characterize atypical PD-related anxiety. Fourteen studies involved Anxiety Not Otherwise Specified (NOS), 31 included fluctuating anxiety symptoms, and 22 included Fear of Falling (FOF).
Overall, the average prevalence rate for anxiety disorders in the PD population was 31%.
Anxiety NOS, fluctuating anxiety, and FOF accounted for a weighted mean prevalence of 14.9%, 34.19%, and 51.5%, respectively.
The symptomatology of anxiety NOS included psychological distress about the PD diagnosis, insecurity about the future, fear of losing control of motor and bodily functions, and social embarrassment. Clinically, anxiety NOS was associated with a range of factors including minor depression, on-off motor symptoms, muscle cramps, poor quality of life, and gait impairment.
The symptomatology of fluctuating anxiety was assessed in 9 studies of the “on” motor state and 16 studies of both “on” and “off.” Symptoms associated with the off state included panic attacks, feeling anxious or sad, and avoiding situations, as well as palpitations, dizziness, chills, and hot flashes.
Clinically, studies showed that anxiety was more severe in the off-medication state, and symptoms were reduced in the on state. Data from some studies showed that fluctuating anxiety was more common in PD patients who were female, and who had a younger age of PD onset and longer disease duration.
The symptomatology of FOF included associations between FOF and difficulty with walking and gait: Using a walker or other device, more frequent freezing in place, hesitation when turning, and slower speed while walking. Clinically, characteristics associated with FOF included older age, needing assistance for activities of daily living, a history of falls, and reduced quality of life.
The results of the review were limited by several factors including the varying assessment techniques, and the lack of data on treatment for atypical anxiety in PD, the researchers noted. “To our knowledge there are no treatment trials focused on Anxiety NOS,” and studies on the treatment of fluctuating anxiety and FOF are preliminary, they said.
However, the results support the need for early identification and classification of PD-related anxiety to improve treatment strategies and long-term outcomes, the researchers concluded. In the absence of evidence-based treatment strategies, “Given the heterogeneity of anxiety presentations in PD, the importance of tailoring interventions to meet the specific needs and unique symptom profiles of each individual cannot be overstated,” and routine screening of PD patients for anxiety every 6-12 months is recommended, they emphasized.
Dr. Dissanayaka disclosed support from the National Health and Medical Research Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellowship.