The survey, whose results are published in the magazine’s November issue, is the largest ever done to query people about the treatment they received for emotional or mental distress. Four thousand Consumer Reports subscribers who responded had sought help from a mental-health provider or a family doctor for psychological problems, or had joined a self-help group. The majority were highly satisfied with the care they received; almost all said life had become more manageable.
Among the findings:
- The longer people stayed in therapy, the more they improved.
- People who started out feeling the worst reported the most progress.
- Almost three-quarters of those seeking professional help went to a mental-health specialist.
- Readers who sought help from their family doctor tended to do well. But people who saw a mental-health specialist for more than six months did much better.
- Most people who went to a self-help group were very satisfied with the experience and said they got better. People were especially grateful to Alcoholics Anonymous.
- 44% of people whose emotional state was ‘very poor’ at the start of treatment said they now feel good. Another 43% who started out ‘very poor’ also improved significantly, though somewhat less.
- People who received only psychotherapy improved as much as those who got psychotherapy combined with medication, like Prozac or Xanax. Most people who took such drugs felt they were helpful; but almost half reported side effects.
Forty percent of respondents who sought professional help received psychiatric drugs. Those who relied only on their family doctors were much more likely to get such drugs — 83 percent of them did, compared with 20 percent of those who went to mental-health specialists. And almost half the people whose doctors gave them drugs received medication without the benefit of much counseling. Although side-effects with psychiatric drugs are well-known, 20 percent of those on medication said their provider never discussed these potential problems — a disturbing lapse in communication. Equally disturbing — 40 percent of those taking antianxiety drugs had done so for more than a year, even though long-term use results in habituation.