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Your Healthy Family: The importance of seeking professional help for depression and anxiety

Posted at 9:48 AM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-02 11:49:45-04

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Two thirds of women with depression and anxiety say they are reaching a breaking point with regard to their mental health, yet many are waiting a year or more to seek treatment — if they ever do. This breaking point can include a negative impact or a significant strain on anything from social life or caring for loved ones at home to professional work.

Four out of 10 women not diagnosed with depression or anxiety also say they have reached or are reaching this point.

A new national survey, the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, found that when feeling overwhelmed, women say they “just need to take a break,” with nearly a third believing they just need to try harder.

“One of the biggest challenges for women in general is the extra demands that are put on their plate,” said mental health clinician BJ Fancher. “When you are the caregiver to your children, spouse and maybe even your parents, you work and then at the end of the day, there’s just not enough time to get your needs met. You’re exhausted and you think this is the norm. But when you can’t shake it off anymore, when you feel stuck, that’s when you know that you need some help.”

The survey found more than half of women diagnosed with anxiety or depression waited at least a year before seeking treatment or never did. Experts stress that these conditions worsen over time, and can drastically impact daily life if left untreated. Seeking treatment from a healthcare provider as soon as you recognize symptoms is critical.

“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,” said Dr. Rachael Earls, a senior medical science liaison for Myriad Genetics. “And if these underlying mental health conditions are not treated properly, it can have effects on your overall physical health as well. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, the first thing you should do right away is reach out for help to start addressing the problem.”

Having a trusted, supportive person can be critical in helping women seek the mental health treatment they need. Dr. Fancher was that person for her daughter, Ansley, who struggled with anxiety in high school before seeking help. She was able to recommend a clinician that Ansley was happy with. Most women surveyed with depression or anxiety diagnosis say they have been ignored or dismissed by family, friends or partners about their mental health concerns.

Ansley’s experience finding the right mental health professional led her to study to become a psychologist herself, while helping contribute to the changing way women view their mental health.

“In a way, I act like a counselor to my friends,” she said. “I never try to pressure them into talking about things, but I’m more than open about my own experiences with mental health issues. I try to help them with their own problems and tell them it’s okay to ask for help.”

Six in ten women diagnosed with depression or anxiety agree that taking a prescription medication was the most helpful step in treating their anxiety or depression symptoms, more than any other action or treatment option, including therapy. Ansley is one of those success stories. Her clinician helped her find a prescription regimen that worked for her, in part by using the GeneSight test, which analyzes how a patient’s genes may affect their outcomes with certain psychiatric medications.

“She gave me the results and kind of explained what they meant,” said Ansley. “And based off of those results, we changed my anxiety medicine. That way my body could better process that medicine.”

For clinicians like Dr. Fancher, the GeneSight test is an important objective test, similar to checking blood levels or taking blood pressure.

“It’s a simple process that can be administered quickly at home or in the office, “ said Dr. Fancher. “I keep coming back to GeneSight because it’s so easy to read and it’s quick, concise, reputable and validated information,” she said. “GeneSight has a great support program, and provides us with another tool that can help patients alleviate the stress of coming back more frequently and being disappointed that they’re not getting better. It’s another tool that can show the patient that you do care about them and you’re trying to get them the best treatment. It’s a tool that can help you get there faster.”

Ansley stresses how important it is to ask for help.

“Even if someone does say, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, I don’t think you need it,’ if you’re already seriously considering it, I think you should just go and do it because there’s no downside to seeking help,” she says. “You can only benefit from it.”