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In The Netherlands, anxiety disorders are the most common psychological disorder. According to the most recent population survey approximately 1,1 million people in The Netherlands are affected by an anxiety disorder. The number of individuals who suffer from an anxiety disorder has increased in recent years.

Anxiety disorder is a collective term for a group of disorders with extreme and excessive anxiety symptoms. Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways and in different situations. Anxiety disorder is therefore an umbrella term for a group of mental disorders in which excessive and unrealistic fear symptoms are central. 

Anxiety Symptoms

Research has shown that there are differences in the prevalence of anxiety disorders between certain population groups and regions in the Netherlands. Within the Netherlands, the greatest differences in prevalence can be seen between men and women, educational levels, and between various geographical regions.

Men vs. Women

The Dutch population survey showed that within The Netherlands more women compared to men suffer from an anxiety disorder. Of the approximately 1.1 million people with an anxiety disorder, 413,600 were men and 655,100 were women. In total, over 23% of women in The Netherlands have been affected by an anxiety disorder, compared to 16% of men. This difference is visible in every age category and for every type of anxiety disorder.

Level of Education

The Dutch population study showed that the prevalence of anxiety disorders also differs between educational levels. The results suggest that people with a lower level of education have a greater chance of developing an anxiety disorder compared to individuals with a higher level of education. Indeed, in 2018, anxiety disorders occurred on average in 46.8 out of every 1,000 people with a low level of education. In contrast, the prevalence among highly educated people in 2018 was 33.4 in 1,000 people. The difference in the prevalence of anxiety disorders between the levels of education has remained almost constant between 2011 and 2018.

Regional Differences  

There are also differences in the prevalence of anxiety disorders between regions within the Netherlands. For example, results of the Dutch population survey show that the number of people with an anxiety disorder is highest in Amsterdam and in the region of South Limburg.  In the northern regions of the Netherlands (Friesland, Drenthe, and Ijsselland), anxiety disorders are the least common.

When a person suffers from an anxiety disorder, it can have a very significant effect on his or her daily life and overall functioning. The burden and extent of suffering from such a mental disorder can vary from person to person. Research shows that  30,8% of patients suffering from an anxiety disorder in The Netherlands indicate that they are extremely affected by the disorder, 34,8% of the patients indicate that they are moderately affected and 34,4% indicate that they are mildly affected by the disorder. 

Besides, anxiety disorders can even be the cause of death. In 2020, 42 individuals in The Netherlands have died as a result of anxiety disorders. 11 of them were males and 31 were females. The cause of death was related to the anxiety disorder. 

To put the burden of disease of a disorder into perspective, the burden of disease of different disorders (both mental and physical) is compared. To make this comparison, the official burden of disease of a disorder is expressed in DALYs.  DALY stands for Disability-Adjusted Life Years and consists of two components. First, is the number of years lost due to premature death as a result of the disease. Secondly, the number of years lost through living with or suffering from the disease. This also takes into account the severity of the disease. In the list of disorders with the greatest burden of disease in 2018, anxiety disorders ranked 10th. 

Effectiveness of treatment 

In general, an anxiety disorder in The Netherlands is treated by means of psychotherapy (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy or EMDR therapy) and medication. Often medication is used in addition to treatment, but sometimes medication alone is sufficient. 

Psychotherapy has proven to be an effective treatment method for anxiety disorders. The percentage of people who fully recover or significantly improve after completing psychotherapy varies by the type of the disorder. Patients with panic disorder appear to benefit most from psychotherapy-based treatment. Indeed, 61% of patients suffering from panic disorder fully recover after going through psychotherapy. 

There are different forms of psychotherapy that can be used when someone suffers from an anxiety disorder. The most studied form of psychotherapy in The Netherlands is cognitive behavioural therapy. This form of therapy has been proven to be effective. Cognitive behavioural therapy appears to be the most effective treatment method in the Netherlands in reducing symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Cognitive behavioural therapy can be carried out in groups or individually. It has generally shown to be equally effective.

In addition, EMDR therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is often used in the Netherlands to reduce anxiety symptoms. Although this form of psychotherapy has been studied less, EMDR therapy also appears to be an effective treatment method. However, current studies show that the effects of EMDR therapy are smaller than those of cognitive behavioural therapy. 

The most effective psychotherapy treatments are thought to last from 16 to 20 sessions. To date, there has been too little research into the optimal duration of psychotherapy. The duration of treatment can also vary greatly from person to person. It has shown, however, that if there is no progress after 16 to 20 sessions, it is better for the patient to switch to another form of psychotherapy or to start a medication-based treatment

Healthcare Costs of Anxiety Disorders in The Netherlands

Someone suffering from an anxiety disorder has a higher demand for care. It is known that people with an anxiety disorder consult their GP more than twice as often as other patients. As an anxiety disorder carries a high disease burden, its treatment can be lengthy and require a great deal of care. The costs of such care can therefore be very high.

In 2017, the total healthcare costs in The Netherlands for anxiety disorders amounted to over €774 million. Of the total healthcare expenditure for anxiety disorders, 65.2% was spent on treatment in women and 34.8% on men. The difference in costs between men and women is related to the difference in the prevalence of anxiety disorders in the Dutch population.

Over the past decades, the number of anxiety disorders among the Dutch population has only increased. This trend is expected to continue in the future. Research has shown that in the period from 2018 to 2040 the prevalence of anxiety disorders will increase among both men and women. It is expected that in this period there will be an increase of 8% in women compared to an increase of 10% in men. This prediction is based on demographic developments.

Anxiety disorder is a collective term for a group of disorders with extreme and excessive anxiety symptoms. Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways and in different situations. Anxiety disorder is therefore an umbrella term for a group of mental disorders in which excessive and unrealistic fear symptoms are central. 

The most common anxiety disorders in The Netherlands are social anxiety disorder and specific phobia. In fact, 9.3% of the Dutch population have ever had to deal with a social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. In addition, 7.9% of the Dutch population has ever had to deal with a specific phobia.

Social anxiety disorder 

One of the most common forms of anxiety disorder is a social anxiety disorder. When someone suffers from a social anxiety disorder, they experience extreme anxiety symptoms during ongoing social events. The fear of social situations in general, or a specific social situation (e.g. stage fright), can be so severe that the individual will avoid these situations altogether. Someone with a social anxiety disorder is mainly afraid of criticism from others.

Overall, 9.3% of the Dutch population have ever had to deal with a social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. This anxiety disorder is generally one and a half times more common in women than in men. 

Postpartum anxiety disorder 

An anxiety disorder that is often overlooked is a postpartum anxiety disorder. A woman who suffers from a postpartum anxiety disorder often experiences extreme anxiety symptoms or negative emotions during the postpartum period.

It is estimated that, in The Netherlands, approximately 1 in 5 women suffer from a postpartum anxiety disorder. It is generally difficult to diagnose this disorder since there is often comorbidity. Such anxiety symptoms often go hand in hand with postnatal depression. However, in about 10% of women, postpartum anxiety disorder occurs in the absence of depression. 

Are you, or a loved one, experiencing or suffering from an anxiety disorder? And do you wish for a more comfortable and luxurious treatment programme? Then you might be interested in The Balance clinic, a luxury and high-quality rehab and mental health clinic. The Balance Clinic offers luxury mental health treatment in Spain (Mallorca/Marbella). Balance is a leading mental health clinic where Dutch citizens can discreetly receive treatment for their mental health issues, such as an anxiety disorder, during their admission to this luxurious clinic in Spain. Balance offers the most luxurious facilities in beautiful surroundings. At The Balance clinic, you allow yourself a moment to recover and receive mental health care far from all of the triggers from your everyday life. 

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