Medical and Psychiatry Researchers of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, has recently published a new multinational study which suggest that anxiety disorders increase the risk of physical problems and negatively affect quality of life. As well, the severity of the physical illness and any loss of function as a result are worsened among those who also have an anxiety disorder.
The study was directed by Dr. Jitender Sareen of the department of psychiatry of the University of Manitoba. He and his colleagues used the results of the German Health Survey (GHS), a survey of 4181 adults ages 18 to 65, conducted between 1997 and 1999, to assess the association between anxiety and illness. The survey assessed whether participants had any physical illnesses through a questionnaire asking about 44 particular problems, a medical
a medical interview conducted by a primary care physician, blood pressure measurements and blood and urine samples.
Psychiatric interviews were conducted by a psychologist or physician, who used criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) to detect anxiety disorders.
During the investigation, Dr. Sareen realized that anxiety disorders were associated significantly with physical problems such as respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, arthritis, allergic problems, migraine disease and thyroid diseases.
Also, the investigation had the following conclusions:
The mechanisms of association between anxiety disorders and physical problems remain unknown, although several possibilities should be considered.
Most individuals with both an anxiety disorder and physical illness developed the anxiety disorder first, and tended to have a poorer quality of life than those with anxiety disorders or physical problems alone.
The presence of an anxiety disorders could trigger biological processes that contribute to illness or a third problem, such as a substance abuse disorder.
There may be common genetic, environmental, and/or personality factors that connect anxiety disorders and certain physical problems.
Whatever the reasons are for these connections, the researchers make clear that physicians need to assess for anxiety as well as depression when treating patients for physical problems. "Although there have been increased efforts to recognize and treat depression in the medically ill, our findings underscore the need to create similar programs to recognize.
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Sources: (2006) Sareen, Jitender, et al. "Disability and Poor Quality of Life Associated With Comorbid Anxiety Disorders and Physical Problems." JAMA N° 166.