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Mental ills attract alternative therapies

A substantial minority of people suffering from mental ailments seek out alternative therapies, usually without telling their physicians, according to a new analysis of data from a 1996 national survey of the public's choices of medical therapies.

About 12 percent of people contacted had experienced a mental disorder. Of those, nearly 1 in 10 said they had consulted a practitioner of an unconventional therapy, say Benjamin G. Druss and Robert A. Rosenheck, both psychiatrists at Yale University School of Medicine.

Patients made about half those visits for psychological problems and the rest for physical complaints.

Unconventional approaches included chiropractic, massage, herbal, spiritual, and nutritional therapies. Such alternatives were much less popular among people without mental disorders, the researchers report in the July Archives of General Psychiatry.

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