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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


BERENZON GORN, Shoshana; ALANIS NAVARRO, Sarahí  y  SAAVEDRA SOLANO, Nayelhi. The use of alternative and complementary therapies on the Mexican population with depressive and anxiety disorders: results of a survey in Mexico City. Salud Ment [online]. 2009, vol.32, n.2, pp.107-115. ISSN 0185-3325.

The use of therapeutic methods and assistance different from the officially recognized ones, in addition to self-care practices, has remained constant throughout history. The extensive interest in so-called alternative or complementary medicine (ACM) has occurred as a result of their growing use in various countries. International literature reports the growing use of alternative and/or complementary treatments by persons with emotional disorders, particularly depression or anxiety. Commonly mentioned alternatives include relaxation techniques, physical therapies, herbal treatment, chiropractice and spiritual healing. The National Survey on Psychiatric Epidemiology undertaken in Mexico (2002) reported that 6.5% of the individuals with affective disorders in the 12 months prior to the study used some kind of alternative medicine. This occurred in 7.3% of the individuals with anxiety disorders and 3.9% of those with disorders associated with substance use. Information from surveys conducted in Mexico City showed that from 18% to 20% of the individuals with depressive disorders, 18% had physical disorders and over a quarter of those with anxiety problems seek a solution to their suffering in various types of alternative medicine. The aim of this study is therefore to determine the therapeutic resources used by the population to treat emotional problems and to analyze the prevalence of these practices in individuals with anxiety or depressive disorders. Method The study was conducted on the inhabitants of six neighborhoods in Mexico City. They were all selected on the basis of the criteria established in a multi-stage, stratified random sample design. The stratification variable used was socio-economic level. The questionnaire included four sections: 1) socio-demographic characteristics; 2) use of 10 self-care and/or alternative service resources related to the presence of emotional disorder; 3) characteristics of the resources or services use and 4) prevalence of depressive and anxiety disorders. The ethical guidelines followed in this research included obtaining verbal informed consent and providing a clear explanation about the objectives of the research, and the way the dwelling and the persons were selected. The researchers stressed the interviewee's freedom to cancel the interview and guaranteed the confidential handling of the information. The diagnoses of mental disorders were obtained on the basis of the ICD-1 0 criteria. For the analysis of service use, the therapies were grouped into two categories, self care (home remedies, self-medication, physical activities, etc.) and alternative and/or complementary services (self-help groups, traditional Mexican medicine, clergy, etc.). Results Of the 361 of the individuals interviewed, 45.9% were men and 54.1% women, the mean age being 45 years old. The 54% of participants represent the high-middle class, and the 46% the low class. Nineteen point two percent of the sample met the diagnostic criteria for one or more disorders, at least once in their lifetime (12.7% in the men's group and 25.1% in the women's group). The prevalence of depressive episodes for women was 9.2% as opposed to 3.0% for men. In the case of anxiety disorders, the prevalence was 16.3% and 9.0%, respectively. Of the total sample 52.5% engaged in some form of self-help, while 28.2% had resorted to alternative systems for coping with emotional disorders at least once in their lives. Among the most commonly used self-help strategies were: enrolling in a physical activity (33.5%), seeking help from informal networks (28.5%) and using household remedies (16.1%). The use of alternative services included visiting a clergy (11.1%) and attending self-help groups (10.2%). The use of self-help and alternative therapies was more common among women. An analysis was undertaken of the type of service used among persons that had met the diagnostic criteria for one or more disorders and those that failed to do so. The group characterized by the presence of disorders undertook more self-help actions than those with no disorders (72.9% and 47.6%). The same trend was observed in the use of alternative services (52.9% and 22.1%). An analysis of the disorders, divided into two main groups, anxiety disorder and depressive episodes, showed that the prevalence of self-care practices (76.6% and 72.7% respectively) and the use of alternative medicines (53.2% and 59.1%) was similar. Most of the group with anxiety disorders reported that it used informal support networks (59.6%) and engaged in physical activities (53.2%). The 45.5% of those that experienced depressive episodes engaged in physical activities, 47.8% visited relatives and friends and 26.1% consulted a priest. The prevalence of self-care practices conducted in the 12 months prior to the survey showed a similar pattern throughout lifetime. Two logistic regression models were used to analyze factors related to the practice of self-care and the use of alternative and/or complementary therapies. The variables included in the models were sex, age, educational level, occupation and the presence of an anxiety or depression disorder. The logistic regression analysis showed that the probability of using self-care practices is higher in persons with an anxiety disorder (OR=3.11), women (OR= 1.74) and persons with a higher educational level (OR=1.93). The likelihood of using an alternative or complementary medicine increases among people experiencing a depressive episode (OR = 3.23) and anxiety disorders (OR=3.45). The people that sought help from relatives, friends or a priest stated that their reasons were <<to solve a family problem>>, <<receive support>> or <<stop feeling sad.>> The reasons for visiting the self-help groups were feeling sad or depressed, or trying to deal with problems related to their alcohol consumption. Those who used home remedies sought to soothe their <<nerves>> and overcome their insomnia. The main reason for engaging in physical activity or performing curative practices adapted from other cultures, such as Bach Flowers or Reiki was to relax and <<relieve stress.>> Interviewees used vitamins or food supplements to cope with the <<feeling of weakness,>> or <<lack of energy and strength>> all of which are concepts underlying the idea of <<improving>> their state or condition. Discussion The use of self-care practices in response to the perception of emotional disorders is common in the interviewed population. This suggests that this type of practices could be regarded as a significant component of mental health care and should therefore be examined with more detail. The main focus should be the link between individuals' perception of their emotional illness or problems and the orientation of their self-care actions. An analysis of the group with disorders showed that a significant percentage of the population with one or more depressive episodes (26.1%) and anxiety disorders (26.1%) used alternative therapies in the 12 months previous to the study. The analysis conducted throughout this study suggests the need for health personnel to have basic knowledge of self-care practices and alternative medicine and to find out about the use of the latter by patients. It has been shown that having this knowledge can significantly improve the doctor-patient relationship, have a positive impact on treatment and help prevent potentially damaging interactions between conventional and alternative treatments. It also provides a better understanding of people's concepts of health and illness, and what they seek in the various medical systems. However, we still have a great deal to learn about the needs, expectations and demands of those that engage in these practices.

Palabras llave : Self-care; complementary and alternative medicine; anxiety; depression; survey.

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