More should be done to notice symptoms of anxiety and depression so that the millions of people who are undiagnosed can be given help, it has been claimed.
New GP guidance on how to improve the detection of common mental health conditions has been published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Conditions including depression, generalised anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) affect one in six adults at any one time.
It is believed that a large proportion of people who suffer from other conditions, including panic disorder, social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have not been diagnosed.
While it thought there is not enough evidence to warrant screenings for the whole patient population, experts have said that GPs should conduct a simple set of questions if they think that someone is finding things difficult.
Patients may also be asked if they are unable to stop or control worrying thoughts, possibly indicating an anxiety disorder.
GPs should also consider asking people who may have depression two questions: During the last month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless? During the last month, have you often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?
If the patient says ‘yes’, then the doctor is likely to ask further detailed questions.
Research suggests only about 30% of people with depression are identified in GP surgeries, with another 30% never coming forward for help.
Professor Tony Kendrick, chairman of the NICE guideline development group, said GP services “do vary but are getting better” when it comes to mental health.
He added: “The costs of common mental health disorders are very high. They are estimated to cause one in five days lost from work in Britain.
“There are existing problems with identification of people with the disorders and with access to primary and secondary care.”