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.
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.
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.
“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.”