4 Obstacles That Prevent People With Anxiety From Seeking Treatment

Health Writer

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting about 40 million adults. Although there are effective treatments for anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, only about one-third of all people with an anxiety disorder actually receive treatment. Here are four obstacles that prevent people from seeking treatment.** Stigma**

Despite the advances in understanding mental disorders that have occurred over the past several decades, the stigma of mental illness remains. Many people still find discussions of psychological problems embarrassing. Some consider their anxiety a personal failure rather than an illness. Friends and family might urge you to "just get over it,” or you might have been teased because of irrational fears. You may be afraid to talk to someone about your anxiety because you worry that you will be judged.

What you can do: Keep in mind that anxiety, like other mental illness, is a combination of neurobiological and psychological issues, and it is real. It does not signal a character weakness or failure. Besides seeking help from a doctor or specialist,** talk to a friend or family member, or join an in-person or online support group where you can feel safe while speaking openly about your anxiety disorder.** Seeking help for an anxiety disorder takes courage.

Lack of resources

Anxiety treatment takes time, energy, and money. It requires access to doctors. For many people, especially those without health insurance, seeing a doctor and getting prescriptions are outside of their monthly budget. Even for those with medical insurance, there are copayments and deductibles. These costs can become prohibitive when it comes to getting the help you need.

Many people don’t know where to start when looking for treatment for anxiety. What type of medical help do you need? Where do you find a phycologist or therapist? How do you know what to look for in a mental health provider? For some, access to mental health care doesn't seem like an available option. Those living in rural areas might not have mental health professionals near their homes and might not be able to travel long distances to find the help they need.

_What you can do:_Start by talking with your primary physician. He or she should be able to guide you to mental health professional in your area. Some providers offer** online therapy**, as well. If you don’t have health insurance or prescription coverage or can’t afford copayments and deductibles, let your primary care physician know this. He might know some low-cost treatment options in your area. Many of the pharmaceutical companies also have programs to help people that can’t afford medication.

Lack of awareness about anxiety and its symptoms

Everyone feels nervous from time to time. You might get scared when starting a new job, moving to a new area, or meeting new people. But does this mean you have an anxiety disorder? When you have been living with untreated anxiety, not knowing the difference between “normal” levels of anxiety and those of an anxiety disorder is quite common; you might think that the fear you experience is how everyone feels. You might see your worry as a character flaw. You might minimize your problems, thinking that “it isn’t too bad” or that you are simply a worrywart.

_What to know: _ Anxiety disorders come in a range of severity, but a general rule of thumb is that if your anxiety prevents you from fully participating in daily activities, including work, school, and socializing, you should seek help. In addition, if your anxiety makes you feel uncomfortable in these setting, you might benefit from treatment.

Anxiety about seeing a doctor

One of the major symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder is constant worry. When you have social anxiety disorder, you have a fear that others are judging you. These are symptoms of anxiety but at the same time they might prevent you from seeking help. You might worry that your doctor will dismiss how you are feeling, or judge you as weak. You might be afraid to talk to a stranger about your problems. You might believe that your fears are unreasonable and worry that the doctor or nurses are going to laugh at you. In other words, your anxiety might hold you back from getting help for your anxiety.

_What you can do:_Think about what could make it easier for you to visit with a doctor. If you are claustrophobic and find waiting in a small examination room difficult, ask the receptionist if you can remain in the waiting room until the doctor is ready for you. You might find it helpful to bring a trusted friend or relative with you. If that isn’t possible, make sure to have a book or your phone or tablet to help keep your mind occupied while you wait. Before your appointment, write down your concerns and questions, as it is easy to forget what you want to say once you are in the doctor’s office.** See More Helpful Articles:**Obstacles to Recovery: Avoiding the Doctor's Visit

What to Expect When Going to the Doctor for Anxiety

Talking to Your Doctor: 10 Questions to Ask

CBT: Structures and Styles


Barriers to the Treatment of Social Anxiety: American Journal of Psychiatry

Barriers to Treatment Seeking for Anxiety Disorders: Depression and Anxiety

Understanding the Unique Barriers for People with Social Anxiety Disorder: CareForYourMind.org

Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.