Effective treatments for common anxiety and mood disorders exist, yet epidemiological studies reveal that the unmet need for treatment in the community remains high. This study investigates the significance of the initial delay to first seek professional help in this unmet need for treatment in an Australian sample. Help-seeking history was retrospectively reported by 273 new referrals to a specialist anxiety treatment clinic who had a primary diagnosis of an anxiety (78%) or mood disorder (22%). Clinical, demographic and attitudinal variables were tested as potential predictors of length of the delay. Average help-seeking delay was 8.2 years (range 0–72 years). Younger age at symptom onset and slower problem recognition were associated with delayed help-seeking, and older people were more likely to report longer delays. We conclude that delays to first seek treatment are long and contribute significantly to the unmet need for treatment for anxiety and mood disorders, and that lack of problem recognition is a significant barrier to help-seeking.
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