While the majority of people with a mental illness do not seek appropriate treatment, a recent World Health Organization study examined rates of psychiatric treatment. It found that anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of individuals with mental illnesses do not seek treatment. The rates for major depression, bipolar disorder, and panic disorder are particularly high, at over 70 percent. The report also found that many individuals who are suffering from alcohol dependence do not seek treatment at all.
There are numerous reasons for this reluctance. Whether or not physicians are unwilling to admit to a mental illness is often based on deeply held beliefs and a belief in the importance of the job. Physicians are supposed to help people and may fear losing their license if they admit to having a mental illness. The fear of being called a weak person is another factor. In many cases, physicians fear disclosure of mental illness may lead to retaliation.
The stigma associated with mental illnesses persists, but research has proven that healthcare providers often mistake symptoms of physical illness for mental disorders. A study by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that 44 percent of adults with mental illnesses had been dismissed by a physician. This level of stigma persists nearly two decades later. The prevalence of diagnostic overshadowing is a key reason why it is so difficult to find help for a mental illness.