Offspring of depressed and anxious patients: Help-seeking after first onset of a mood and/or anxiety disorder

Petra J Havinga, Catharina A Hartman, Ellen Visser, Maaike H Nauta, Brenda W J H Penninx, Lynn Boschloo, Robert A Schoevers

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BACKGROUND: Offspring of patients with depressive and/or anxiety disorders are at high risk of developing a similar disorder themselves. Early recognition and treatment may have substantial effects on prognosis. The main aim of this study was to examine the time to initial help-seeking and its determinants in offspring after the first onset of a mood and/or anxiety disorder.

METHODS: Data are presented of 215 offspring with a mood and/or anxiety disorder participating in a cohort study with 10 year follow-up. We determined age of disorder onset and age of initial help-seeking. Offspring characteristics (gender, IQ, age of onset, disorder type, suicidal ideation) and family characteristics (socioeconomic status, family functioning) were investigated as potential predictors of the time to initial help-seeking.

RESULTS: The estimated overall proportion of offspring of depressed/anxious patients who eventually seek help after onset of a mood and/or anxiety disorder was 91.9%. The time to initial help-seeking was more than two years in 39.6% of the offspring. Being female, having a mood disorder or comorbid mood and anxiety disorder (relative to anxiety) and a disorder onset in adolescence or adulthood (relative to childhood) predicted a shorter time to initial help-seeking.

LIMITATIONS: Baseline information relied on retrospective reports. Age of onsets and age of initial help-seeking may therefore be subject to recall bias.

CONCLUSION: Although most offspring eventually seek help after onset of a mood/anxiety disorder, delays in help-seeking were common, especially in specific subgroups of patients. This information may help to develop targeted strategies to reduce help-seeking delays.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-626
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of affective disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Duration of untreated illness
  • Familial risk
  • Help-seeking
  • Mental health care

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