Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues worldwide. Yet many people with anxiety never receive treatment. When they do seek treatment, most people receive inadequate care, according to a study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety.
Anxiety Care: Inadequate and Out of Reach for Many
The study gathered data from community health surveys of people in 21 countries. More than 51,500 people responded. Overall, 9.8% of respondents met DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for an anxiety-related diagnosis over the past 12 months.
Rates of anxiety varied significantly between regions. African nations had an average anxiety rate of 5.3%, compared to 10.4% in European countries. The global prevalence was 7.3%.
Only 27.6% of people who fit the diagnostic criteria for clinical anxiety received treatment. This may be due in part to people’s perceptions about their mental health needs. Less than half (41.3%) of people with anxiety felt they needed mental health care.
Even when people sought professional help, their care often did not meet basic standards. Fewer than 1 in 10 care-seekers received adequate treatment. The study defined adequate treatment as one or more of the following:
- Eight or more visits to a psychotherapist. Psychotherapy can help people manage anxiety symptoms. It can also address ways their lifestyle might contribute to their anxiety.
- Medication accompanied by four or more visits to a medical doctor. Monitoring medication and side effects increases treatment efficacy.
- Eight or more visits to a complementary and alternative medicine practitioner. Some people’s religious or political beliefs preclude more traditional treatments. Help from culturally competent care providers may still offer support.
Adequate treatment is important because it can prevent anxiety from becoming chronic. Treatment can also reduce the risk of anxiety-related health conditions.
Why Adequate Anxiety Care is Hard to Access
The study did not assess why people who sought treatment often received inadequate care. Researchers did find reduced treatment access and quality in lower-income countries. These statistics suggest financial barriers may play a role.
Low numbers of people seeking care also points to a need for greater mental health education. If someone does not understand their anxiety, they may not believe treatment can help. The study’s authors say care providers may also be failing to recognize the need for treatment.
- Alonso, J., Liu, Z., Evans-Lacko, S., Sadikova, E., Sampson, N., Chatterji, S., . . . Thornicroft, G. (2018). Treatment gap for anxiety disorders is global: Results of the World Mental Health Surveys in 21 countries. Depression and Anxiety. doi:10.1002/da.22711
- Only 1 in 10 patients with anxiety disorders receives the right treatment. (2018, January 23). EurekAlert. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-01/idm-o1i012318.php
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