Mental Health in Australia: Most Common Psychological Disorders

One of the most common goals new clients have when attending treatment with me is to understand themselves or their symptoms. Mental health conditions can be scary. It can be reassuring to know that there is a name for the condition that you are experiencing. Conditions which are common are allocated research money for their cure/alleviation. This leads to the development of evidence-based treatments. It feels good to know that proven treatments exist for the psychological disorder that you are experiencing.

In 1997, and again in 2007, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducted the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. The 2007 survey collected data from a representative sample of nearly 9,000 Australians. A sample of this size would be expected to be fairly accurate guess of the Australian population in general.

The 2017 survey was not conducted due to budgetary reasons. This is a real shame because evidence from over western, wealthy countries indicates that over the last 10 years or so, mental health conditions have been on the rise, for young people especially.

Anyway, the 2007 survey, represents our best guess of the number of people with psychological disorders in Australia now. A summary of the results exists here.

The top 10 conditions by prevalence for working age people (age range 16-64) in the 12 months prior to survey were:

  1. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (6.4%)
  2. Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder) (4.7%)
  3. Depressive Episode (4.1%)
  4. Alcohol Harmful Use (2.9%)
  5. Agoraphobia (2.8%)
  6. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (2.7%)
  7. Panic Disorder (2.6%)
  8. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (1.9%)
  9. Bipolar Affective Disorder (1.8%)
  10. Alcohol Dependence and Drug Use Disorder (both 1.4%)

The ABS estimates the working age population in June 2019 to be 16,588,252. So, if these percentages are the same today, it would mean one million working age adults living with PTSD and nearly 800,000 living with social phobia. Really significant numbers!

In upcoming weeks and months, I will be describing the most common psychological disorders for adults in Australia (as per this list). Hopefully this will be a resource to empower people with mental health conditions to better understand their symptoms.

Some things have changed since 2007. Alcohol dependence and harmful use are no longer labels used in the psychiatric bible the DSM. Therefore, there I will have just one article for Alcohol Use Disorder. Also, as Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia very often co-occur, I will be describing these conditions in the same entry.

I look forward to delving into each disorder in detail.

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