I got this article from Johns Hopkins Health alerts (you can sign up for free @ johnshopkinshealthalerts.com). As much as times have changed, there is still a stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment, but it is fading. Men and older folks in general are more resistant. But when you or your partner are dealing with a serious illness, you need all the help you can get, pharmaceuticals included.
Finding the Courage To Seek Help for Depression or Anxiety
Are you feeling down, sad, or anxious? For many people the biggest obstacle to recovery is the perceived stigma of appearing weak or vulnerable and needing professional help. Johns Hopkins discusses this common concern and offers advice.
Being clinically depressed or anxious is not a sign of mental weakness. Nor is it a normal part of aging or an inevitable consequence of having other health problems such as heart disease or diabetes. Rather, depression and anxiety are true medical illnesses, caused by biological changes in the brain. The good news is that both conditions can be treated effectively by a health professional, whether it be your family doctor, a therapist, or a psychiatrist.
For many people, however, the biggest obstacle to recovery from depression or anxiety is convincing themselves to seek help in the first place. Many people worry that they will be viewed as weak, vulnerable, abnormal, or troubled if they admit to depression or anxiety or to seeing a mental health professional. This is especially true for those of us who grew up in the era before people talked openly about mood disorders, when few medications were available to treat anxiety and depression, and when therapy was anything but commonplace.
A landmark survey of 9,282 people published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2005 showed that one in four adults have symptoms of at least one mental disorder each year — typically anxiety or depression — and nearly half of all Americans suffer from a mental disorder at some point during their lifetime. Fortunately, this survey also highlighted how the stigma of anxiety and depression is beginning to fade: Today, 41% of people with anxiety or depression seek treatment, compared with only 15% in the mid-1990s and 19% in the mid-1980s. The fact is that Americans are more comfortable than ever before with acknowledging anxiety and depression as real medical problems that can and should be treated — not only for mental health, but for overall health. Indeed, research strongly suggests that emotional and physical health are closely entwined.
Beyond improving mood, undergoing therapy can boost your immune system and help to relieve related symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and nausea. Still, if you’ve waited a long time to seek care, you’re not alone. In the survey, those with depression waited eight years on average, and those with generalized anxiety disorder, nine years. Older people and men tended to wait even longer to seek care, even after recognizing the symptoms.
Why the delay? It isn’t only the fear of being stigmatized. Many people may think – incorrectly — that there is no real help for their problem. Others may be concerned about the cost of mental health care. Studies about anxiety and depression show that these reasons are not valid, so don’t let them deter you from seeking help.The bottom line is that you don’t have to live with depression or anxiety. There is no shame in seeking help — and no one needs to know but you and your doctor if discretion is important to you. The only shame is in letting outdated notions about depression and anxiety stop you from taking advantage of the help that is available.