Have you or your loved ones experienced difficulties with concentration and memory, sleep, fatigue, worrying, low self-esteem and/or crying spells? At times, these feelings could be so difficult that there may be a sense of hopelessness. There may be thoughts of “I wish I were not alive.”
These are likely symptoms of depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety can impact an individual’s basic functioning. Some may find it difficult to work or study. Others may isolate themselves from family and friends. Some may sleep too much, and others may experience insomnia. Racing thoughts and uncontrollable worries can cause individuals to wonder if they are “crazy.” They may ask, “What’s wrong with me?”
People who suffer from physical illnesses often seek help from doctors, but people who suffer from mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, may not know what is going on and may not know what to do with these difficulties. People may also be worried about stigma attached to mental health issues.
You and your loved ones do not need to suffer in silence or alone. There is help and those who seek treatment often feel better.
Between November 2010 and May 2013, in collaboration of the Health and Health Services Research Fund, Food and Health Bureau, and Hong Kong SAR Government, a group of researchers conducted the very first territory-wide epidemiological survey of mental health data in Hong Kong--Hong Kong Mental Morbidity Survey (HKMMS). A total of 5,719 Chinese adults between ages of 16 and 75 in the general Hong Kong population participated in the survey. The results showed that 1 in 14 participants met the diagnostic criteria of the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), for mixed anxiety and depressive disorder (MADD).1
The prevalence rate is comparable with the rate of mood disorders in China and western countries. However, among those who met the criteria for MADD, only about 16% sought mental health treatment during the year prior to when the survey was conducted1.
There are various reasons why individuals suffer from depression and anxiety. It could be a combination of different factors that include genetic make-up, chemical imbalance, psychosocial history, trauma, and stress. Some may require help from medication. Some may benefit from psychotherapy. Some may need support from both medication and therapy.
In a recent study conducted by the National Health Service (NHS) of United Kingdom, data was collected from 19,395 patients who met criteria for clinical depression and anxiety. For those who completed at least two sessions of therapy and received at least two outcomes scores, 40.3% of them were reliably recovered at post-treatment, and 63.7% of them showed reliable improvement2. The results are consistent with studies dating from early 2000s, which demonstrated that various forms of psychotherapy are effective for treatment of depression and anxiety.
You and your loved ones may wonder when it is necessary to seek professional help. There are no straight guidelines as to when exactly one should seek help. If someone is not safe or barely functioning, the person should seek help immediately, including seeking emergency services. If the depressive and anxiety symptoms persist for more than four weeks and basic functioning is being impaired, that would be an indication that professional help may be warranted.
Individuals with depression and anxiety can become better. They can enjoy life, they can love and be loved, and they can have a life of hope and joy. And, they do not need to suffer in silence or alone.
About Dr. Mok-Lammé
- Prevalence, psychosocial correlates and service utilization of depressive and anxiety disorders in Hong Kong: the Hong Kong Mental Morbidity Survey (HKMMS). Lam, Linda Chiu-wa; Wong, Corine Sau-man; Wang, Min-jung; Chan, Wai-chi; Chen, Eric Yu-hai; et al. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology; Heidelberg 50.9 (Sep 2015): 1379-1388.
- Gyani, A., Shafran, R., Layard, R., & Clark, D. M. (2013). Enhancing recovery rates: Lessons from year one of IAPT. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51(9), 597–606.