Objective: This study presents data on the use of complementary and alternative therapies to treat anxiety and depression in the United States.
Method: The data came from a nationally representative survey of 2,055 respondents (1997-1998) that obtained information on the use of 24 complementary and alternative therapies for the treatment of specific chronic conditions.
Results: A total of 9.4% of the respondents reported suffering from "anxiety attacks" in the past 12 months; 7.2% reported "severe depression." A total of 56.7% of those with anxiety attacks and 53.6% of those with severe depression reported using complementary and alternative therapies to treat these conditions during the past 12 months. Only 20.0% of those with anxiety attacks and 19.3% of those with severe depression visited a complementary or alternative therapist. A total of 65.9% of the respondents seen by a conventional provider for anxiety attacks and 66.7% of those seen by a conventional provider for severe depression also used complementary and alternative therapies to treat these conditions. The perceived helpfulness of these therapies in treating anxiety and depression was similar to that of conventional therapies.
Conclusions: Complementary and alternative therapies are used more than conventional therapies by people with self-defined anxiety attacks and severe depression. Most patients visiting conventional mental health providers for these problems also use complementary and alternative therapies. Use of these therapies will likely increase as insurance coverage expands. Asking patients about their use could prevent adverse effects and maximize the usefulness of therapies subsequently proven to be effective.