Effective Treatment for Physical Illness Often Includes Help for Depression or Anxiety

Effective Treatment for Physical Illness Often Includes Help for Depression or Anxiety

By Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

Fifty percent of adults with chronic pain are also struggling with anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.  This is a recent finding from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170531133242.htm)

Senior author of the study, Silvia Martins, MD, Ph.D., noted, “The dual burden of chronic physical conditions, and mood and anxiety disorders is a significant and growing problem.”  The data collected involved self-reports as well as interviews from slightly more than 5,000 participants in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

People with depression, or bipolar disorder, reported chronic pain 50% of the time.  They also reported respiratory diseases 33% of the time, cardiovascular disease 10%, arthritis at 9%, and diabetes at 7%.

Adults with anxiety, reported chronic pain 45% of the time, respiratory diseases at 30%, and 11% of the time also reported arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Individuals with two or more chronic diseases had an even increased likelihood of a mood disorder or anxiety.  Hypertension occurred 23% of the time with either depression or anxiety.

There is often a dual diagnosis at work: both physical and mental disorders.  Therefore preventive efforts and treatment services should focus on both sources of suffering.

It is interesting to note that the correlation works both ways:  depression or anxiety co-occur with other physical disorders that are long-lasting and they interact with each other.  Any effort at treatment would be more effective if the mental/emotional aspect of the physical disorder is also cared for, through psychotherapy or supportive counseling.

Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at dralanms@gmail.com or (310)  539-2772.

Copyright 2017 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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