SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — On top of a deadly pandemic, the world is facing a mental health crisis like no other. A new national survey reports two out of three women diagnosed with depression or anxiety are reaching their limit when it comes to caring for their mental health. The GeneSight® Mental Health Monitor also found that four out of 10 women who do not have a formal diagnosis of depression or anxiety are already at their “breaking point.”
The nationwide survey, conducted between Feb. 25 and March 11, 2022, included 1,000 women living in the United States with a diagnosis of either depression or anxiety.
Women’s breaking points ranged from problems with their social life, caring for loved ones at home, and job demands. When overwhelmed, 72 percent say they needed a break, while 31 percent believe feeling stress means they need to try harder. Only 13 percent believed they needed to see a doctor when they feel swamped.
“Women often feel pressure to ‘hold it all together’ and not admit when they are struggling,” says Betty Jo “BJ” Fancher, a family medicine and psychiatric physician assistant, in a media 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 healthcare provider about your mental health.”
Women are not getting the help they need
Despite their mental health taking a turn for the worse, more than half the poll (51%) waited at least one year before getting help — or never got help at all.
“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,” explains Rachael Earls, PhD, a medical science liaison with Myriad Genetics, makers of the GeneSight test. “Why live with a mental health condition that can impact every aspect of your life until you reach a breaking point?”
The survey also reveals the top six reasons women diagnosed with depression or anxiety delayed seeking treatment. Women gave reasons including:
- “I thought it was ‘just a phase’ or that I could get over it on my own” (60%)
- “I didn’t want anyone to know I was struggling” (50%)
- “I didn’t want to take medication” (31%)
- “I couldn’t afford treatment” (26%)
- “I didn’t have health insurance” (19%)
- “I didn’t have time to seek treatment” (18%)
The ongoing mental health stigma
Researchers say another major reason many women are hesitant to get help is that they are concerned about how their family and friends will react. Six of 10 women with depression or anxiety diagnoses say they’ve had their mental health concerns ignored or dismissed by loved ones. Only 44 percent felt comfortable speaking about their stress and anxiety problems with friends or family.
“I have friends who won’t talk to their parents about how they are struggling because they are afraid of their parents’ reaction,” says Ansley, daughter of Dr. Fancher and a senior at the University of Georgia, who has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. “Therapy has helped me, so I know the benefits of talking to someone about your mental health. When friends or classmates say they are suffering with depression or anxiety, I encourage them to reach out to someone and get the help they need.”
Despite mental health counseling and other treatment options, less than two out of 10 women believe they will ever fully rid themselves of anxiety or depression. In contrast, six out of 10 women diagnosed with depression or anxiety find that prescription medicines are more effective in treating anxiety or depression than any other treatment option, including therapy.
One treatment option that is not widely utilized is genetic testing to create personalized treatments. Only 30 percent of women are aware of genetic testing that could help their doctors with their decisions to prescribe certain medications. Just eight percent have used genetic testing and 67 percent wished their doctor used genetic testing to provide information on how genes could influence their reaction to certain medications.