NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders

Sample Answer for NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders Included After Question

NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders

I’m no longer at the mercy of my PTSD, and I would not be here today had I not had the proper diagnosis and treatment. It’s never too late to seek help. 

—P.K. Philips, PTSD patient 

For individuals presenting with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders, everyday life can be a constant challenge. Clients requiring anxiolytic therapy may present with anxiousness, depression, substance abuse issues, and even physical symptoms related to cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal ailments. As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you must be prepared to address the many needs of individuals seeking treatment for PTSD and other anxiety disorders. 

This week, as you study anxiolytic therapies and PTSD treatments, you examine the assessment and treatment of patients with PTSD and other anxiety disorders. You also explore ethical and legal implications of these therapies. 

Reference:
Philips, P. K. (n.d.). My story of survival: Battling PTSD. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/personal-stories/my-story-survival-battling-ptsd 

Learning Objectives 

Students will: 

  • Assess patient factors and history to develop personalized plans of anxiolytic therapy for patients 
  • Analyze factors that influence pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic processes in patients requiring anxiolytic therapy 
  • Synthesize knowledge of providing care to patients presenting with anxiolytic therapy 
  • Analyze ethical and legal implications related to prescribing anxiolytic therapy to patients across the lifespan 
  • Assess psychopharmacologic approaches to treatment for patients across the lifespan 

 

Learning Resources 

 

Required Readings (click to expand/reduce) 

 

Bui, E., Pollack, M. H., Kinrys, G., Delong, H., Vasconcelos e Sá, D., & Simon, N. M. (2016). The pharmacotherapy of anxiety disorders. In T. A. Stern, M. Favo, T. E. Wilens, & J. F. Rosenbaum. (Eds.), Massachusetts General Hospital psychopharmacology and neurotherapeutics (pp. 61–71). Elsevier. 

 

American Psychiatric Association. (2010a). Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. https://psychiatryonline.org/pb/assets/raw/sitewide/practice_guidelines/guidelines/acutestressdisorderptsd.pdf 

 

American Psychiatric Association. (2010c). Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with panic disorder (2nd ed.). https://psychiatryonline.org/pb/assets/raw/sitewide/practice_guidelines/guidelines/panicdisorder.pdf 

 

Bendek, D. M., Friedman, M. J., Zatzick, D., & Ursano, R. J. (n.d.). Guideline watch (March 2009): Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. https://psychiatryonline.org/pb/assets/raw/sitewide/practice_guidelines/guidelines/acutestressdisorderptsd-watch.pdf 

 

Cohen, J. A. (2010). Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 49(4), 414–430. https://jaacap.org/action/showPdf?pii=S0890-8567%2810%2900082-1 

 

Davidson, J. (2016). Pharmacotherapy of post-traumatic stress disorder: Going beyond the guidelines. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2(6), e16–e18. 10.1192/bjpo.bp.116.003707. http://bjpo.rcpsych.org/content/2/6/e16 

 

Hamilton, M. (1959). Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A). PsycTESTS. https://doi.org/10.1037/t02824-0 

 

Ostacher, M. J., & Cifu, A. S. (2019). Management of posttraumatic stress disorder. JAMA, 321(2), 200–201. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.19290 

 

Strawn, J. R., Wehry, A. M., DelBello, M. P., Rynn, M. A., & Strakowski. S. (2012). Establishing the neurobiologic basis of treatment in children and adolescents with generalized anxiety disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 29(4), 328–339. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.21913 

 

A Sample Answer For the Assignment: NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders

Title: NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders

NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders

The case highlights a 46-year-old white male presenting with chest tightness, shortness of breath and feeling of impending doom. The patient has a history of mild hypertension and tonsillectomy, which has been accompanied by unremarkable medical history. The patient cites occasional shortness of breath, chest tightness, feelings of impending doom and the need to ‘escape’ or ‘run’ from one place. He confesses using ETOH to combat worries about work since the management at his place of work is harsh, and he fears for his job. The patient’s symptoms are characteristic of generalized anxiety disorder.

Anxiety can be a normal part of life, with concerns such as health, family challenges and money temporarily dominating individual experiences. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thinking related to catastrophic events in an individual’s life (Ostacher & Cifu, 2019). Exposure to traumatic and terrifying events triggers PTSD. It is a potentially debilitating condition that affects direct victims or witnesses of traumatic events such as accidents, natural disasters, loss of loved ones, violent assaults like rape, war and other life-threatening events. The events can trigger an obsessive, recurrent and repetitive behavior that increases the feeling of fear, worry, helplessness, and hopelessness (Ostacher & Cifu, 2019). Nightmares, intrusive memories and flashbacks are common in individuals with past traumatic experiences increasing the risk of panic disorders.

Generalized anxiety disorders are common in adults with PTSD manifestations evident several months after the exposure to the traumatic and terrifying event. The symptoms of the anxiety disorders can be detrimental, although they subside, reducing the struggle with coping and self-care. According to Holmes (2022), anxiety disorders are mental conditions that deteriorate the quality of life by altering the action of neurotransmitters. Individuals with anxiety disorders have elevated worry and fear.

Psychopharmacological therapy targets relieving symptoms rather than curing the disorders. The recommended medications in the management of anxiety disorders include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), antipsychotics, beta and adrenergic medications, antihistamines and GABAergic medications (Garakani et al., 2020). The treatment decisions will reflect the drug pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and ethical considerations in using the pharmacotherapeutic approach. The paper highlights three decisions on Generalized Anxiety Disorders.

Decision One,

Which Decision did you Select?

The first-line treatment for the patient will be the first-line SSRI, oral paroxetine 10 mg daily.

Why did you select this Decision?

Anxiety disorders are managed using different pharmacological regimens. The approaches focus on alleviating the symptoms and

NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders
NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders

restoring social, mental and physical wellbeing. However, SSRIs and SNRIs are recommended for the treatment of PTSD, although sertraline and paroxetine are FDA-Approved as the first-line medication for PTSD management. According to Ostacher and Cifu (2019), benzodiazepines are contraindicated in PTSD. Paxil is FDA-approved for treating anxiety disorders and PTSD and is considered the first-line pharmacotherapeutic option for anxiety disorders. Paxil is an SSRI that potentiates the serotonin action influencing the serotonergic neurotransmission (Davidson 2016). The medication restores serotonin balance, regulates mood changes, and reduces anxiety, fear, and panic attacks. Paxil has minimal anticholinergic and sedative effects and has a low cardiovascular impact. Its therapeutic window can range from 4-6 weeks and is significant in managing generalized anxiety disorder. It has less anticholinergic, adrenergic and antihistamine activity than tricyclic antidepressants.

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Why did you not select the other two options provided in the exercise?

Paxil is safer and tolerable in diverse patients than other medications such as Buspirone and Imipramine, which have adverse reactions such as increased drowsiness, blurry vision, and dizziness. Besides, they are not approved for first-line treatment of anxiety and PTSD hence my choice of Paxil for anxiety treatment.

What were you hoping to achieve with this Decision?

Paxil is slowly absorbed with its half-life ranging between 11 to 20 hours and attains its peak concentration within 4 to 10 hours. It works by elevating the serotonin levels, which establish a mental balance. According to Strawn (2018), Paxil can elicit minimal adverse reactions and alleviate symptoms such as fear, worry, helplessness, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. In light, I targeted alleviating the anxiety symptoms by elevating the serotonin levels.

Explain how ethical considerations may impact your treatment plan and communication with patients

Paxil has minimal adverse effects that undermine individual ethical values and treatment models. Patient safety is at the center of the pharmacological therapeutic approaches hence a key consideration in medical ethics. However, the patient is not incapacitated and capable of making individual decisions; thus, the psychiatrist needs to highlight the psychotherapeutic and pharmacotherapeutic models available and educate the patient appropriately before consenting to the treatment.

Decision Two

The first-line medication for the treatment of anxiety and PTSD is the most likely option for managing the patient. However, I would opt to retain Paxil as my second decision rather than change the medications. However, I will increase the dose from 10mg to 20mg daily to enhance the therapeutic effect.

Why did you select this decision?

The reaction response to Paxil may take long to manifest. To boost the HAM-A score, I would opt for a higher dose. Paxil is well-tolerated in the body and elicits minimum side effects (Strawn, 2018). Although the drug’s reaction is slow, it attains its therapeutic effect after a significantly more longer period. Therefore, increasing the dose can immediately impact mood and anxiety symptoms. According to Slee (2022), using a higher SSRIs dose can elevate serotonin levels in the brain and enhance the treatment outcome. The client’s compliance with the treatment can HAM-A score and attain best results.

Why did you not select other options in this exercise?

The anxiety medications exhibit diverse adverse effects. However, Paxil is well tolerated, with minimal side effects reported. In light, rather than changing to another first-line SSRIs with a similar pharmacokinetic and therapeutic effects, I would rather increase the dose. Besides, it is recommended as the best first-line treatment for anxiety disorders and PTSD. According to Javed and Fountoulakis (2018), Paxil significantly reduces the symptoms more than other medications such as imipramine. Therefore, I did not see the need to change the medication rather than maintain the patient on a higher dose of Paxil.

What were you hoping to achieve by making this decision?

Although the medication might take time for the client to realize a significant decline in the clinical manifestations, the main objective of the decision was to lower the HAM-A score further and stabilize mood and anxiety symptoms.

Explain how ethical considerations may impact your treatment plan and communication with patients

The major ethical concerns in medication include patient consent and safety. The medication should align with the major ethical principles that advocate for the patient’s autonomy, beneficence, and nonmaleficence. Paxil dose is well tolerated; therefore, increasing the dose implies that the medication is likely to be well tolerated. Furthermore, patient education should be advocated to allow the patient to make informed consent.

Decision Three

The third decision will be to shift to an SSRI alternative. However, the drug withdrawal process might be lengthy; hence I would opt for 10 mg of oral buspirone. Buspirone will also need close monitoring to assess the need to alter the treatment plan.

Why did you select this decision?

Buspirone is well tolerated in the body, although it is used in the short-term management of anxiety symptoms. It is also FDA-Approved for the management of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In light, change from SSRI to Azapirone can attain a higher therapeutic effect than non-responsive paroxetine. The drug is well tolerated in the body, although it might exhibit some adverse effects.

Why did you not select the other two options provided in this exercise?

The rationale for the choice of the medications was entirely based on the efficacy and tolerability of the drugs. Buspirone is well-tolerated, exhibits minimal adverse effects, and is FDA approved for treating anxiety disorders. Therefore, I opted for drug safety and FDA recognition in the decision for combination therapy.

What are you hoping for by making this decision?

Adopting a combined therapy aimed to improve the patient’s experiences by lowering the anxiety symptoms. Buspirone regulates neurotransmitters’ actions, reducing anxiety symptoms (Javed & Fountoulakis, 2018). Changing the medications from non-responsive or slow-responding SSRIs to Azapirones can significantly reduce the HAM-A score alleviating the clinical manifestations of anxiety disorder.

Explain how ethical considerations may impact your treatment plan and communication with patients

The ethical concerns in the medical field are crucial, especially in managing mental health disorders. Patient autonomy may be impaired due to the involvement of the family members in the treatment process. However, the psychiatrist can establish the patient’s competence and compliance to determine the best approach for intervention. According to Javed and Fountoulakis (2018), buspirone elicits side effects such as chest pain, drowsiness, nausea, and increased sweating. However, some severe side effects such as blurred vision, uncontrollable shaking, agitation, hallucinations, confusion, irregular heartbeat and seizures can be reported. Clear communication should be established to allow the patient to make informed consent to the medication.

NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders Conclusion

The management plan involved a shift from Paxil 10 mg to 20 mg once per day and further to Azapirone therapy of 10 mg buspirone twice a day. The selection of Paxil and buspirone was based on the recommendation and approval by the FDA in treating anxiety disorders and PTSD. However, due to the low response and impact on the HAM-A score, increasing the dose increased serotonin concentration, low anxiety, and regulated mood. The third decision opted against change from SSRIs to azapirone. Buspirone has partial agonist properties on serotonin and can improve serotonin levels and reduce the HAM-A score.

NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders References

Davidson, J. (2016). Pharmacotherapy of post-traumatic stress disorder: going beyond the guidelines. BJPsych Open, 2(6), e16-e18. http://bjpo.rcpsych.org/content/2/6/e16

Garakani, A., Murrough, J. W., Freire, R. C., Thom, R. P., Larkin, K., Buono, F. D., & Iosifescu, D. V. (2020). Pharmacotherapy of anxiety disorders: current and emerging treatment options. Frontiers in psychiatry, 1412. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.595584

Holmes, L. (2022). The 4 Major Classes of Anxiety Medications. Verywell Mind. Retrieved 2 July 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/mental-health-medications-for-anxiety-2337705.

Javed, A., & Fountoulakis, K. N. (Eds.). (2018). Advances in psychiatry. Springer.

Ostacher, M. J., & Cifu, A. S. (2019). Management of post-traumatic stress disorder. JAMA321(2), 200-201. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.19290

Slee, A. (2022). Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Incidence and Drug Treatment (Doctoral dissertation, UCL (University College London)). https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10146430

Strawn, J. R., Geracioti, L., Rajdev, N., Clemenza, K., & Levine, A. (2018). Pharmacotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder in adult and pediatric patients: an evidence-based treatment review. Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy19(10), 1057-1070. https://doi.org/10.1080%2F14656566.2018.1491966

Anxiety disorders are characterized by pathologically elevated levels of anxiety. One of the common anxiety disorders is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is characterized by anxiety, tension, worry, and fears about various day-to-day events and problems. Patients with GAD experience difficulties controlling excessive worries (DeMartini et al., 2019). GAD’s excessive anxiety and worry cannot be accounted for by a medical condition or substance use. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the case scenario of a patient with an anxiety disorder and describe the treatment and ethical considerations that may impact treatment.

Case Overview

The case scenario portrays a 46-year-old white male referred by his PCP after visiting the ER due to the fear of having a heart attack. The client mentions that he experienced chest tightness, dyspnea, and a feeling of impending doom. He has a history of mild hypertension and is overweight by roughly 15 lbs, but the rest of his medical history is unremarkable. His EKG and physical exam findings were normal, and myocardial infarction was ruled out. The client reports that he still experiences chest tightness and episodes of dyspnea, which he calls anxiety attacks. He also has infrequent feelings of impending doom and a need to escape. He scores 26 on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale and is diagnosed with GAD.

The patient factors that may influence medication prescribing include age, the severity of the patient’s GAD, treatment preferences, current medical condition and medications, and previous medication trials (DeMartini et al., 2019). The clinician needs to consider the patient’s current hypertension and overweight and prescribe a drug that will not aggravate the conditions.

Decision #1

Start Zoloft 50 mg orally daily.

Why I Selected This Decision

Sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), was chosen because it is the most cost-effective SSRI. It is also indicated in the first-line treatment of GAD in adults. Strawn et al. (2018) found that the potential side effects of Zoloft are relatively well-tolerated, which leads to a higher compliance rate and better patient outcomes.

Why I Did Not Select the Other Options

Imipramine was not an ideal choice because it is a 2nd line therapy used when SSRIs are unsuccessful in alleviating GAD symptoms. Besides, Imipramine is associated with anticholinergic unpleasant side effects such as dry mouth, sedation, and constipation (Strawn et al., 2018). The side effects may contribute to a low compliance rate, which delays achieving the desired treatment effects. In addition, Buspirone was not ideal since it has no antipanic activity. Thus, it would not adequately alleviate the anxiety attacks in the client. Furthermore, Buspirone has a prolonged onset of action and is not recommended as monotherapy in treating GAD (Strawn et al., 2018).

What I Was Hoping To Achieve

I hoped that Zoloft would improve the GAD symptoms by at least 50% by the fourth week, and the HAM-A score would improve to 12. According to Garakani et al. (2020), SSRIs such as Zoloft have been established to be efficacious in treating anxiety disorders.

How Ethical Considerations May Impact the Treatment Plan

Ethical principles that may affect the treatment plan include beneficence (duty to do good) and nonmaleficence (duty to cause no harm) (Bipeta, 2019). The PMHNP upheld beneficence and nonmaleficence by prescribing Zoloft, which is associated with the best treatment outcomes and least side effects. The other drugs were not prescribed due to their associated treatment outcomes and side effects.

Decision #2

Increase Zoloft to 75 mg daily.

Why I Selected This Decision

The Zoloft dose was increased because the patient’s anxiety symptoms had not fully abated. Although he reported that the chest tightness and dyspnea had abated, he still experienced some degree of worry, and the HAM-A sore showed a partial response. Increasing the dose was thus an ideal choice to promote full remission of GAD symptoms (Strawn et al., 2018). Besides, the dose increase was gradual since it allows the PMHNP to monitor the drug’s side effects adequately.

Why I Did Not Select the Other Options

Increasing Zoloft to 100 mg was inappropriate since it is a high dose increase. Thus, it does not allow the clinician to effectively monitor the drug’s effect on the patient and its side effects. It is recommended that the dose is gradually increased to promote successful therapy. In addition, changing the dose was not ideal because the patient exhibited a partial treatment response to the initial dose. Treatment guidelines recommend that the drug be changed only when there is no positive response to therapy after eight weeks or adverse effects (Garakani et al., 2020).

What I Was Hoping To Achieve

I hoped that gradually increasing the dose would help to fully alleviate the depressive symptoms while at the same time monitoring the drug’s associated side effects. The initial dose of Zoloft is 25 to 75 mg daily, while the usual dose range is 50-200 mg daily (Garakani et al., 2020). Thus, 75 mg is an acceptable dose for this patient.

How Ethical Considerations May Impact the Treatment Plan

Nonmaleficence was upheld in this decision by gradually increasing the dose, which would allow the PMHNP to monitor the drug’s effect, thus preventing harm to the patient (Bipeta, 2019). Besides, beneficence was upheld by increasing the dose to promote complete remission of symptoms and better patient outcomes.

Decision #3

Maintain the current dose.

Why I Selected This Decision

The current dose was maintained at 75 mg because the patient demonstrated an adequate positive response to the dose. The patient reported a further decrease in the depressive symptoms with a 61% reduction in symptoms, and the HAM-A score improved to 10. Besides, there were no reported side effects, and thus, maintaining the dose was ideal to avoid adverse effects if the dose was increased (He et al., 2019).

Why I Did Not Select the Other Options

Increasing Zoloft to 100 mg was not an appropriate choice because the patient had an adequate positive response to the current 75 mg dose. Increasing to 100 mg may alleviate the symptoms further but poses the risk of side effects which may affect the drug compliance rate (He et al., 2019). Besides, an augmenting agent was not added to the plan because the patient had an adequate response with Zoloft monotherapy. Besides, monotherapy is highly recommended to prevent polypharmacy.

What I Was Hoping To Achieve

I was hoping that maintaining the dose would promote a progressive remission of the GAD symptoms and further improve the HAM-A score while at the same time causing no harm to the patient through side effects. Strawn et al. (2018) found that Zoloft continues to improve GAD symptoms over time regardless of a fixed dose.

How Ethical Considerations May Impact the Treatment Plan

The ethical principle of autonomy may impact the treatment plan if the patient does not consent to the medications or requests a change in treatment due to side effects. The PMHNP must obtain informed consent and explain the benefit of the prescribed medication and potential side effects (Bipeta, 2019).

Conclusion

The specific patient factors that may influence decisions on medication in the above patient include age, the severity of GAD, patient’s treatment preferences, current medical condition and medications, and previous medication trials. The patient was initiated with Zoloft 50 mg daily. The drug was selected because it is indicated as a first-line treatment in GAD and is associated with effective treatment outcomes (Strawn et al., 2018). Besides, it is associated with minimal side effects compared to Imipramine. Buspirone was not selected due to the lack of antipanic activity, which is crucial in managing the patient’s anxiety attacks. The initial dose led to a partial decrease in GAD symptoms, which led to increasing Zoloft to 75 mg daily (Strawn et al., 2018). The aim of this decision was to alleviate the GAD symptoms further. The dose was not increased to 100 mg daily to allow monitoring of side effects. Besides, the drug was not changed because the patient demonstrated a positive response to the initial drug, and no side effects were reported.

The patient’s symptoms decreased with Zoloft 75 mg with a 61% remission in symptoms. The dose was then maintained at 75 mg to allow for a progressive decrease in symptoms and monitoring of side effects. Augmentation was not recommended to avoid polypharmacy (Garakani et al., 2020). Ethical principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence influenced the treatment plan. The clinician selected medication known to have the best treatment outcomes and the least adverse effects to promote better health outcomes (Bipeta, 2019). Autonomy should also be respected by considering the client’s decisions when developing the treatment plan.

 

NURS 6630 Assessing and Treating Patients With Anxiety Disorders References

Bipeta, R. (2019). Legal and Ethical Aspects of Mental Health Care. Indian journal of psychological medicine41(2), 108–112. https://doi.org/10.4103/IJPSYM.IJPSYM_59_19

DeMartini, J., Patel, G., & Fancher, T. L. (2019). Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Annals of internal medicine170(7), ITC49–ITC64. https://doi.org/10.7326/AITC201904020

Garakani, A., Murrough, J. W., Freire, R. C., Thom, R. P., Larkin, K., Buono, F. D., & Iosifescu, D. V. (2020). Pharmacotherapy of anxiety disorders: current and emerging treatment options. Frontiers in psychiatry, 1412. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.focus.19203

He, H., Xiang, Y., Gao, F., Bai, L., Gao, F., Fan, Y., … & Ma, X. (2019). Comparative efficacy and acceptability of first-line drugs for the acute treatment of generalized anxiety disorder in adults: a network meta-analysis. Journal of psychiatric research118, 21-30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.08.009

Strawn, J. R., Geracioti, L., Rajdev, N., Clemenza, K., & Levine, A. (2018). Pharmacotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder in adult and pediatric patients: an evidence-based treatment review. Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy19(10), 1057–1070. https://doi.org/10.1080/14656566.2018.1491966