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COVID & Anxiety: Survey Finds Some Won’t Seek Treatment

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, no one could have predicted where we’d stand eighteen months in.

But as uncertainty around health threats, mandates and work or school conditions continue, a new GeneSight® Mental Health Monitor national survey, released Oct. 2021, finds many Americans are experiencing anxiety symptoms, yet some won’t seek treatment.

Young woman takes anxiety medication during COVID pandemic

Two in three of all respondents say that the U.S. is experiencing, or will experience, a second pandemic – this time, it will be a mental health pandemic. Almost six in 10 of all respondents said they are concerned with anxiety and/or pandemic-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Nearly half rated their anxiety symptoms as moderate to severe over the past six months.

“Anxiety symptoms rob people of the life they want to live. They may be afraid to go out, unable to sleep, unable to eat, eating too much, sleeping too much,” said Dr. Robin Miller, an internist and owner of Triune Integrative Medicine in Medford, Oregon. “There are a lot of symptoms that people are experiencing that they probably should go and get help for but may not be.”

Nearly two-thirds of respondents diagnosed with anxiety said their symptoms have increased “a little or a lot” as a result of changing requirements around COVID-19 restrictions.

While the pandemic is only 18 months old, more than half of those diagnosed with anxiety say they lived with symptoms for years or decades before seeking treatment.

: bar graph showing answers to question For those who haven’t sought treatment but are concerned they may be suffering from anxiety, only 36% are planning to seek treatment. When asked what it would take to get help for their anxiety, 47% said a debilitating panic attack. Additional reasons included not being able to leave their homes (34%), sleep issues (31%), an unshakeable feeling of dread (30%) and a negative impact to relationships (30%).

“Imagine waiting until you lose your hearing to treat an ear infection. Patients who are experiencing anxiety symptoms shouldn’t wait to seek treatment,” said Dr. Miller. “If you are afraid to go out, experiencing panic attacks, can’t sleep, or your relationships are suffering, you don’t have to live like this. You don’t have to wait. You don’t have to suffer for years. Help is out there – and treatment can help.”

Mental health disorders should be treated

Of those diagnosed with anxiety, nearly half said they would feel more comfortable talking about their mental health today than they would a year ago.

Button with GeneSight logo and text learn more about the GeneSight test“The pandemic appears to have made people willing to share their mental health struggles,” said Mark Pollack, MD, chief medical officer for Mental Health at Myriad Genetics. “Talking about mental health challenges is the first step towards getting treatment.”

While more people appear to be willing to talk about their mental health, one out of five respondents still say they won’t seek treatment.

The top reasons for those who would NOT seek treatment for a mental challenge are:

  • Minimize their struggles. 35% of all respondents say “it’s not a big deal,” while 24% say their struggles are “just a phase.”
  • 25% say they didn’t want to spend the money or that it costs too much.
  • Medication resistance. 22% say they don’t want to go through trial-and-error medication treatment.

“Untreated anxiety can be associated with distressing and disabling panic attacks, intense worry, and disruption to your life, work and relationships,” said Dr. Pollack. “Like other medical conditions, individuals should seek evaluation and treatment as early as possible, to minimize the distress and dysfunction associated with these conditions.”

Anna and her battle with anxiety

Anna, a 32-year-old mother who was first diagnosed with anxiety in her early 20s, said that seeking treatment wasn’t easy. She went through an extensive trial-and-error period with different medications and dosages.

: Young woman works on her computer, showing how treating anxiety can help patients be mentally well“Medication seems to work fast in my body, so after taking a medication that was supposed to help me, my anxiety would instead get worse – I would have suicidal thoughts and be paralyzed with worry,” said Anna. “My doctor would increase the dosage or change medications, which would lead to horrible side effects.”

Anna then took the GeneSight test, which analyzes how a patient’s genes may affect their outcomes with medications commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other psychiatric conditions.

“After reviewing the results of my test, my psychiatrist reduced the dose by half, and it helped me. I honestly don’t know if I would have taken another medication if it hadn’t been for genetic testing,” said Anna. “I’m glad I pursued treatment until I found a medication and dosage that worked for me. Now that I’m not riddled with crippling anxiety, everything has gotten better. I’m a better mom. I’m more motivated, more outgoing and friendly.”

To read more of Anna’s story, visit: https://genesight.com/patient-stories/i-dont-think-i-would-have-taken-another-medication-if-it-wasnt-for-genesight/

For more information about the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor survey, visit www.GeneSight.com/Mental-Health-Monitor

Map showing GeneSight healthcare providers

Our articles are for informational purposes only and are reviewed by our Medical Information team, which includes PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.

The GeneSight test must be ordered by and used only in consultation with a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications. As with all genetic tests, the GeneSight test results have limitations and do not constitute medical advice. The test results are designed to be just one part of a larger, complete patient assessment, which would include proper diagnosis and consideration of your medical history, other medications you may be taking, your family history, and other factors.

If you are a healthcare provider and interested in learning more about the GeneSight test, please call us at 855.891.9415. If you are a patient, please talk with your doctor to see if the GeneSight test may be helpful.

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