Despite Reaching ‘Breaking Point,’ Many Women Wait a Year Before Seeking Mental Health Treatment

More than half of women diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression said they waited at least 1 year before seeking treatment, or never sought treatment at all.

Even though 2 out of 3 women diagnosed with depression or anxiety say they have reached or are approaching their breaking point in their mental health, a small percentage thought they should see a health care provider, according to new research.

In a nationwide survey from Myriad Genetics, Inc, 72% of women said they “just need to take a break,” with 31% saying “I need to try harder.” Only 13% said they thought “I should see a doctor” when feeling overwhelmed.

The breaking point can include a negative impact or significant strain on things such as social life, professional responsibilities, and caring for loved ones. Whereas two-thirds of women with a depression or anxiety diagnosis said they were reaching this point, 4 out of 10 women without a diagnosis said they have reached or are approaching this point.

“Women often feel pressure to ‘hold it all together’ and not admit when they are struggling,” said Betty Jo Fancher, PA, in a press release. “Yet, if you are sobbing on the floor of your shower, throwing things in anger, or repeatedly screaming into a pillow, these are signals that you have crossed a line and should see a health care provider about your mental health.”

Despite the widespread mental health concerns in the survey, delaying mental health treatment was common. More than half (51%) of women diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression said they waited at least 1 year before seeking treatment or never sought treatment at all.

The top reasons for this delay included the belief that this was “just a phase,” a reluctance to let anyone know they were struggling, a reluctance to take medication, and inability to afford treatment or find the time.

“The GeneSight Mental Health Monitor found that women are waiting more than a year—longer than they should—to get the mental health treatment they need,” said Rachael Earls, PhD, a medical science liaison with Myriad Genetics, in the press release. “It is critical to receive treatment for mental health because we know that mental health conditions are highly comorbid with other physical diseases, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease. Why live with a mental health condition that can impact every aspect of your life until you reach a breaking point?”

The reluctance to seek treatment could sometimes be rooted in how mental health concerns were received by family and friends, as well. Six in 10 women surveyed with depression or anxiety diagnoses said they have been ignored or dismissed by family and friends when they tried to discuss mental health concerns. Less than half of women say they talk to friends or family to relieve stress and anxiety.

Additionally, despite available treatment options, fewer than 2 in 10 women believe they will ever be free from anxiety or depression symptoms.

However, 6 in 10 women diagnosed with depression or anxiety agreed that taking a prescription medication was the most helpful step in treating their anxiety or depression symptoms. Taking medication was more helpful than any other action or treatment option offered in the survey, including therapy.

Only approximately 30% of women who have been prescribed psychiatric medication said they are aware of genetic testing that could help their physicians with prescribing decisions, and only 8% of these respondents have had genetic testing. However, 67% of diagnosed women whose physician did not use genetic testing said they wish their physician had told them about a genetic test that could provide information on how their genes may impact medication outcomes.

REFERENCE

Two-thirds of women with anxiety and depression are reaching a breaking point with their mental health. News release. GeneSight; April 26, 2022. Accessed May 11, 2022. http://genesight.multimedia-newsroom.com/index.php/2022/04/26/survey-two-thirds-of-women-with-anxiety-and-depression-say-they-are-reaching-a-breaking-point-with-regard-to-their-mental-health/