Barriers inhibit mental illness diagnosis

Pharmaceutical Representative

Three commonly held views appear to hinder millions of Americans with clinical depression or generalized anxiety disorder from being diagnosed or treated, according to the National Mental Health Association's "America's Mental Health Survey."

Three commonly held views appear to hinder millions of Americans with clinical depression or generalized anxiety disorder from being diagnosed or treated, according to the National Mental Health Association's "America's Mental Health Survey."

According to the survey, only 18% of all adult Americans who appear to have met the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression and/or generalized anxiety disorder at some point in their lives have ever received an official diagnosis or treatment. More than 19 million Americans are affected by depression each year, with another four million affected by generalized anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The survey findings suggest that the following beliefs account for this gap between prevalence and diagnosis or treatment:


•Â Ninety-three percent of undiagnosed people do not associate their symptoms with a mental health disorder; at the same time, 44% of those undiagnosed say their symptoms cause significant emotional pain and restrict functioning in their daily lives.


•Â Forty-four percent of undiagnosed people unwilling to go to a healthcare professional believe their symptoms are self-manageable; rather than seek professional treatment, many utilize self-help techniques such as prayer (41%), rest (38%), exercise (37%), sleep (31%), or emotional support from family and friends (31%).


•Â Forty-two percent of people with a formal diagnosis say they are embarrassed or ashamed by their symptoms (compared with 17% of those undiagnosed), and twice as many of those with a formal diagnosis (16%, versus 8% of those who are undiagnosed) say they're afraid to talk to their friends about their mental health problems. Further, only two out of five people with a formal diagnosis believe their symptoms mean they have a mental health disorder.

"It's clear that we need to remove the stigma associated with the diagnosis of a mental illness and educate all people about depression and generalized anxiety disorder so they can recognize symptoms and distinguish transient, circumstantial moods or feelings from a more serious mental health problem," said Michael Faenza, president and chief executive officer of the NMHA. "Many people with symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders do not need treatment and can benefit from a range of activities to improve their mental health, such as the basics of communicating, exercising, eating and sleeping right. However, when their feelings persist, worsen or interfere with their daily lives, many people should seek treatment. We must help people recognize when it's time to seek professional help, and then let them know that, with care, their illness can – and should – remit." PR