Q: National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week is from May 4-10 this year. Why do you feel it’s important that there’s a week dedicated to the awareness of anxiety and depression?
A: Millions of children and adults suffer from an anxiety disorder such as panic disorder or social anxiety disorder, depression or a related disorder, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many suffer in silence, do not seek treatment, or even realize that they have a real, serious, and treatable condition. National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week allows ADAA and other organizations to highlight these disorders and offer educational resources and information to those who suffer and their families.
Q: Your organization is the leader in helping to prevent, treat, and cure anxiety disorders and depression. Why do you feel so many people are reluctant to seek treatment? How does ADAA help assist people with this process?
A: Unlike the everyday anxiety or sadness we all feel from time to time, the physical and psychological symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and depression are often so intense that they stop people from doing the very things they want and often love to do. People with these disorders look fine. They are embarrassed and afraid to tell people what is actually wrong or how they are feeling because it might be trivialized. Others may think they should be able to overcome this on their own.
ADAA assists people in several ways. First, it is important to learn about and understand the disorder. So many people tell us that just knowing that they are not alone is empowering. ADAA provides resources about how to find a treatment provider, questions to ask a provider, and an online directory of providers. Individuals can also call ADAA to ask for help if they are uncomfortable going online or do not have access to a computer.
Q: ADAA provides much-needed information and treatment referrals. How many people benefit from your services each year?
A: All of our resources are available for free. We know that close to 16,000 people visit our website every day; and we respond to tens of thousands of email and phone requests in a year.
Q: Your website states that anxiety disorders are the most common illness in the U.S. Does this impact the U.S. economically?
A: According to a study published in 1999 (the latest study), anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill. [“The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” a study commissioned by ADAA, The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60(7), July 1999.]
More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services; people with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.
Q: It seems to me that many anxiety sufferers feel as if they will never be able to conquer this challenging disorder. How treatable is anxiety? What should people be aware of when they seek treatment?
A: Anxiety disorders are very treatable. There are excellent treatments that have been proved scientifically to be effective. That said, people respond differently to treatments, so there is no one treatment that works for everyone. Treatment should be tailored to each person’s individual diagnosis.
These disorders can be treated by a variety of providers who are licensed to treat mental health, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, marriage and family therapist, behavioral health counselor, psychiatric nurse or nurse practitioner, as well as primary care physicians.
When seeking treatment, people should feel comfortable with a therapist and be able to ask about the therapist’s experience treating these disorders, type of treatment recommended, length of time of treatment, cost, insurance, training, etc. Make a list of questions to ask the therapist at your visit. ADAA’s website has information and questions to ask a therapist.
Q: I see that ADAA has funded more than $1.5 million toward anxiety disorder research. What does the most current research tell us?
A: There are three things to highlight:
We now understand that anxiety disorders are ubiquitous and can exist on their own and as a complication of other disorders, such as depression, substance abuse, and even schizophrenia. Anxiety disorders are development disorders that appear early in children and teens. Anxiety is associated with relapse, development of multiple disorders, substance abuse and even suicide risk.
Compared to other disorders, anxiety disorders have clearly established medication and psychotherapies that work reasonably well for the majority of sufferers.
Because the brain-behavior relationships are similar in rodents and humans, we have good models for anxiety compared to other problems like schizophrenia. Understanding the basic science gives us hope that advances in neuroscience may impact how we treat and diagnose anxiety disorders sooner than for schizophrenia or psychosis.
Q: What are some ways someone would be able to support ADAA’s mission?
A: People can support ADAA’s mission by learning about these disorders and their treatment and helping others who need the information. In this way, everyone is able to make a difference in the lives of those they love who have one of these disorders.
Individuals can donate to ADAA directly via our website, www.adaa.org, or participate in a program like iGive.com that provides ADAA with a percentage of an online purchase without costing the individual.