5 Weird Ways Your Mental and Physical Illnesses Are Connected
Last Updated: May 17, 2017
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Got the blues and a bad stomachache? The two could be connected.
Until recently, scientists were unsure about the relationship between mental and physical health: Do mental illnesses cause physical illnesses, or is it the other way around? Well, it depends. Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland analyzed data from a survey involving about 6,500 U.S. teenagers and found some shocking connections between certain mental and physical illnesses. Sometimes mental disorders predicted physical diseases. And in other cases, physical illnesses appeared to be risk factors for mental illnesses down the line. What physical malady might you develop if you experienced depression as a teen? What about anxiety or addiction? Read on to find out!
MOOD DISORDERS ARE PREDICTORS OF ARTHRITIS & DIGESTIVE DISORDERS
Teens who have mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, are more likely to develop arthritis and digestive disorders (such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux disease) later in life, according to the new findings. The researchers’ conclusions are supported by an earlier study that found that enhancing care for depression reduced arthritis pain among adults with both depression and arthritis. And to support the data that linked mood disorders to digestive disorders, the scientists referred to another study that discovered that depression was a predictor of peptic ulcers.
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Olga Ternavskaya/Adobe Stock
ANXIETY DISORDERS CAN LEAD TO SKIN DISEASES
Anxiety disorders — which include anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders — in young adulthood may increase your risk of developing skin diseases. To support their findings, the researchers highlighted two previous studies that showed that psychotherapy can improve both anxiety level and skin condition in patients with atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin disease that causes severe itching and eczema. In fact, psychotherapy did more to improve the patients' skin condition than topical creams or drugs. Although integrative medicine, which focuses on healing both the mind and body, is still on the fringes of what we consider normal healthcare, findings like these support the trend toward more holistic treatments.
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SUBSTANCE ABUSE MIGHT CAUSE SEASONAL ALLERGIES
Despite finding a strong connection between substance abuse — which is linked to mental illness — and seasonal allergies, the authors of the study didn’t provide any other evidence that might support their conclusions. One explanation might be that beer, wine and liquor contain histamines, which can trigger allergic reactions. Another explanation might be the link between allergies and the liver. The liver works to detoxify and excrete toxic substances. But when it becomes overloaded with toxins (which can occur with substance abuse), it produces extra allergy-inducing histamines to protect itself.
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HEART DISEASE CAN LEAD TO ANXIETY DISORDERS
Although the authors of the study found that heart disease in teens was a risk factor for anxiety disorders, there currently isn't a ton of research out there to support their findings. One report found that more than half of the 288 patients studied (51 percent) experienced heightened symptoms of depression or anxiety in the 12 months following a heart attack. However, the University of Basel researchers believe that there wasn’t enough data about the subjects’ health pre-heart attack to prove that the event was to blame for their mood and anxiety disorders.
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EPILEPSY COULD RESULT IN EATING DISORDERS
Epilepsy during a person’s teen years could eventually lead to eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. According to the study’s authors, both diseases have ties to the limbic system in the brain. To put that in plain English, this system controls your emotional responses to eating, so an imbalance could trigger an eating disorder. And damage to an area related to this system could also bring about seizures. The good news? In several case studies where patients with brain injuries had seizures and eating disorders, treating the wounds resolved both illnesses.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Is this information blowing your mind, or did you already know about the connection between mental and physical illness? Have you had a mental illness that led to a physical illness or vice versa? How do you think this research should change the way doctors currently treat physical and mental health conditions?
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