Psychological Medicine

Neurotic disorders and the receipt of psychiatric treatment

a1 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, RF & UCL Medical School, Institute of Psychiatry and Office for National Statistics, London; Department of Psychiatry, University of Leicester; Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee; and University of Wales College of Medicine, Department of Psychological Medicine, Cardiff


Background. Access to psychiatric treatment by people with neurotic disorders in the general population is likely to be affected both by the severity of disorder and by sociodemographic differences.

Method. In the household component of the National Surveys of Psychiatric Morbidity > 10000 subjects in Great Britain with psychiatric symptoms were interviewed using the CIS-R. They were also asked about difficulties experienced in performing seven types of everyday activity. All subjects classed as having an ICD-10 disorder were questioned about their experience of treatment with antidepressants, hypnotics, and counselling or psychotherapy.

Results. Less than 14% of people with current neurotic disorders were receiving treatment for them. Within the previous year, only a third had made contact with their primary care physician for their mental problem: of these < 30% were receiving treatment. Overall, 9% of people with disorders were given medication and 8% counselling or psychotherapy. A diagnosis of depressive episode was that most associated with antidepressant medication. Treatment access was affected by employment status, marital status, and age, but the major determinant was symptom severity. Neither sex nor social class influenced which people received treatment.

Conclusions. People with psychiatric disorders seldom receive treatment, even when they have consulted their primary care physician about them. In many cases, this must represent unmet needs with a strong claim on health resources. There are also inequalities in the receipt of treatment, although the major influence is the severity of disorder.

c1 Address for correspondence: Professor Paul E. Bebbington, RF & UCL Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Archway Campus, Whittington Hospital, Highgate Hill, London N19 5NF.