Early Onset of Mental Disorders Found in Worldwide Survey

By Schneider, Mary Ellen | Clinical Psychiatry News, May 2009 | Go to article overview
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Early Onset of Mental Disorders Found in Worldwide Survey


Schneider, Mary Ellen, Clinical Psychiatry News


NEW YORK -- Most mental health disorders begin in childhood and adolescence, but the early onset of these disorders makes it less likely that individuals will promptly seek treatment, initial findings of the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative show.

"Mental disorders worldwide are basically disorders of the young," said Dr. Philip Wang, director of the Division of Services and Interventional Research at the National Institute of Mental Health, who presented the survey findings at the annual meeting of the American Psychopathological Association.

For example, worldwide about 50% of cases of anxiety disorders have an onset before age 15. For mood disorders, 50% of survey respondents reported onset by age 25. Among respondents who reported substance abuse disorders, 50% said the condition appeared by age 20.

The survey also found that most professionally diagnosed cases of chronic mental disorders eventually get some kind of treatment, although not necessarily administered in a professional setting. But treatment delays are pervasive, and treatment quality is often inadequate. The treatment can range from buying a self-help book to formal mental health care, and might not be intensive enough or simply ineffective, Dr. Wang said.

Worldwide, 70%-90% of respondents diagnosed with panic disorder said they had received some form of treatment, but the median time to receiving treatment was 1-4 years.

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