With 2019 underway some Americans are scheduled for their annual medical physical. A yearly checkup for all-things-health is strongly advised, especially for people with preëxisting conditions. The majority of adults know what to expect when they see their primary care physician or PCP for a physical. A trip to the scale is to see if one is overweight, a reflex hammer to the knee, and saying aah. A litany of questions may follow about an individual’s physical health, but there is little guarantee that the patient is asked about mental illness. Will your doctor ask if you are depressed or anxious?
Why is inquiring about mental illness significant during an annual physical? Because the mind and body are inextricably linked. Many people may not understand that diseases of the brain can wreak havoc on the body over time. When conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress do not receive treatment—a person’s life can take a turn for the worse.
Over the years, researchers have sought to identify a link between mental health illness and poor physical wellbeing with mixed results. However, a new study compares the effect of anxiety and depression on the body to that of smoking and obesity. The latter two are usually a top concern among PCPs, whereas the former couple is not.
Mental Illness May Be Leading Predictors Physical Health Problems
Researchers Andrea Niles, Ph.D., and Aoife O’Donovan, Ph.D., of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and the San Francisco VA Medical Center, found that patients with high levels of anxiety and depression are at severe risk of physical sickness, according to a UCSF news release. Of more than 15,000 patients, 2,225 suffered from high levels of anxiety and depression. First author Niles and senior author O’Donovan found that such patients are:
- 65 percent more likely to face heart condition;
- 64 percent for stroke;
- 50 percent for high blood pressure; and,
- 87 for arthritis.
Dr. Niles and O’Donovan observed that people with untreated depression and anxiety face similar risks to experience the above conditions as smokers and obese people, the article reports. The study appears in the journal Health Psychology.
Anxiety and depression symptoms are strongly linked to poor physical health, yet these conditions continue to receive limited attention in primary care settings, compared to smoking and obesity,” said Niles. “To our knowledge this is the first study that directly compared anxiety and depression to obesity and smoking as prospective risk factors for disease onset in long-term studies.”
Interestingly, and contrary to popular belief, the researchers found no associations between high levels of anxiety and depression and cancer. On the other hand, those affected by these issues are exponentially more likely to contend with a headache, stomach upset, back pain, and shortness of breath.
“On top of highlighting that mental health matters for a whole host of medical illnesses, it is important that we promote these null findings,” said O’Donovan. “We need to stop attributing cancer diagnoses to histories of stress, depression and anxiety.”
The research highlights the need for PCPs to inquire about symptoms of mental illness. Diagnosing anxiety and depression conditions is the first step toward treatment and recovery.
Orange County Mental Health Treatment
We invite adult males who are struggling with mental illness to reach out to PACE Recovery Center to learn more about our mental health intensive outpatient program (IOP). Our team can advocate for your wellbeing and give you the tools for managing your illness.
We are always available at 800-526-1851, to answer any questions; or, you can submit a confidential online inquiry here.