Delusional-like experiences (DLE) are closely associated with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and psychosis. However, many people have DLEs and do not experience significant psychological distress. This is because although DLEs and poor mental health are closely linked, not everyone with DLEs develop psychological problems that reach clinical levels. Despite this, those that do and those at risk of progressing to poor mental health should be accessing mental healthcare.
But until now, it has been unclear how many people with DLEs actually use mental health services. In an attempt to get a clear idea of how many people with DLEs access mental healthcare services, Sukanta Saha of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research at The Park—Centre for Mental Health in Australia recently conducted a survey on over 8,700 Australian residents.
The results indicated that only 8.4% of those surveyed had at least one DLE. Those with DLEs were much more likely to take medications and see psychologists or psychiatrists than those without DLEs. However, of all those who reported having DLEs, more than half had never used mental health services of any kind. This study did not examine whether barriers to treatment, stigma, or the DLE’s insignificant impact on quality of life were reasons for not seeking treatment. Yet the fact that so many participants with DLEs had never received any help for mental issues is alarming.
“It has become increasingly apparent that DLEs are nonspecific markers of poor health,” said Saha. Research has shown that DLEs can coexist with a host of other mental health issues including anxiety, PTSD, stress, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and even suicidal ideation. Therefore, it is imperative that people with DLEs, even DLEs that seem to have little impact on overall well-being, be identified. This will allow for intervention at the earliest opportunity and hopefully prevent DLEs from progressing into more severe mental health problems.
Saha, S., McGrath, J., Scott, J. (2013). Service use for mental health problems in people with delusional-like experiences: A nationwide population based survey. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71951. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071951
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