Psychiatrists' ascertained treatment needs for mental disorders in a population-based sample

Erick Messias, William Eaton, Gerald Nestadt, O. Joseph Bienvenu, Jack Samuels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: Population-based studies of prevalence have been used to approximate the amount of need for treatment of mental disorders. This study aimed to estimate need for treatment of alcohol dependence, major depression, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and social phobia. Methods: Psychiatrists used the Schedule for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry (SCAN) to assess individuals in a probability sample of the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area follow-up study for need for and use of mental health services. Population-based estimates were calculated with probability weights. Results: The SCAN sample included 816 participants who were interviewed between 1993 and 1999. Prevalence of need for mental health services in the general population was 28.7%±2.7%. Among the disorders studied, the greatest need was for treatment of alcohol dependence; 90% of the SCAN sample who met criteria for this diagnosis, or 13.6%±1.9% of the population, needed treatment. In the general population, 10.5%±2.1% needed treatment for major depression; 5.2%±.9%, for social phobia; 5.2%±1.6%, for panic disorder; and 3.2%±.9%, for agoraphobia. The highest needs for specific treatment modalities were self-help groups for alcohol dependence, talk therapy for depression, behavior modification for social phobia and agoraphobia, and antidepressant medications for panic disorder. Overall, less than 33% of needs were met. Social phobia and alcohol dependence were the two disorders with the highest proportion of unmet need. Conclusions: Prevalence of mental disorders is only an approximation of the need for treatment. There is a substantial need for mental health services in the general population. Most individuals who would benefit from treatment are not receiving any type of mental health services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-377
Number of pages5
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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