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Good Care Rare for Depression and Anxiety.

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WebMD Health News

Jan. 15, 2001 -- Most people with depression or anxiety just get along the best they can -- and do so without the benefit of proper medical help. That rather depressing news sparked more than a little anxiety in experts contacted by WebMD, who point out that the medications and counseling techniques available today can go a long way in improving the health and quality of life in these people.

Researchers led by Alexander Young, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA, identified this problem after conducting a nationwide telephone survey of more than 1,600 people experiencing depression or anxiety. They learned only 30% received appropriate treatment. People who were less educated, male, black, younger than 30, or older than 59 were less likely to receive proper care.

The news was even worse when looking at those people who initially sought help from the primary care doctor -- which most people did. Of that group, only 19% received appropriate care. Mental health specialists, on the other hand, did much better, offering appropriate care to 90% of the people they saw.

That's not surprising, James Underberg, MD, tells WebMD.

"In a busy general internal medicine office, physicians often don't have the time to fully explore those kinds of problems," he says. "Most of the time, we're limited to 10 or 15 minutes," says Underberg, who practices general internal medicine in New York City.

What can consumers do to obtain the most effective care? They should learn the warning signs for depression and anxiety, just as they learn the warning signs for other diseases, says Jeremy Kisch, PhD, senior director for clinical education at the National Mental Health Association.

Underberg agrees. "The educated consumer does best. When you prepare for your visit with an accountant, you get more out of it, and visiting the doctor is similar. Think ahead of time about your questions. If you may be experiencing depression or anxiety, ask your doctor about that," he tells WebMD.

Depression and anxiety are real biological brain disorders, Young says. "They're not a weakness, not something you bring on yourself, not something to be ashamed of, and medications and counseling can really help."

These days, many insurance cards have an 800 number for mental health services on the back, he says, giving patients a handy way to get a quick evaluation and referral to a specialist.

Depression is difficult to diagnose because it can be a combination of physical symptoms and emotional feelings. It includes feeling sad or losing interest in things you used to enjoy. People with depression may have problems concentrating or making decisions, or feel unusually slow or restless. But depression also has bodily symptoms, including sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping, feeling tired all the time, having a big increase or decrease in appetite, and even general aches and pains.

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