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Am J Psychiatry. 1998 Jan;155(1):62-9.

Patterns and predictors of treatment contact after first onset of psychiatric disorders.

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  • 1Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



The authors used self-report data to study patterns and predictors of treatment contact after the first onset of DSM-III-R mood, anxiety, and addictive disorders.


Data from the National Comorbidity Survey, a general population survey of 8,098 respondents, were used. Disorders were assessed by using a modified version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Age at onset and age at first treatment contact were assessed retrospectively.


There was great variation across disorders in lifetime probability of treatment contact. Most treatment contact was delayed; the median delay time was between 6 and 14 years across the disorders considered here. Probability of treatment contact was inversely related to age at onset and increased in younger cohorts. The effects of sociodemographic variables were modest and inconsistent across disorders.


The majority of people with the disorders considered here eventually make treatment contact. However, delay was pervasive. Further research is needed on the determinants of delay and on the low probability of lifetime treatment contact among people with early-onset psychiatric disorders.

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