Disorders and Treatment
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Correlations between mental disorders and physical illnesses have long been observed by medical doctors, and mental health professionals.
Now, psychologists at the University of Basel, and Ruhr University Bochum identified specific mental and physical disease relationships that can develop over time in young people.
The research group, led by Dr. Marion Tegethoff and Professor Gunther Meinlschmidt, analyzed data from a representative sample of 6,483 U.S. adolescents, ages 13 to 18. They discovered that some physical illnesses develop more often in children and teens when they are earlier diagnosed with particular psychological disorders, and that some psychological disorders are more likely to occur after the onset of certain physical diseases.
The researchers found, for example, that after developing an affective (mood) disorder such as depression, digestive system problems and arthritis are more common. Skin diseases are more likely following anxiety, and an anxiety disorder is more prevalent for individuals earlier diagnosed with heart disease.
The research data also revealed a close association between epileptic disorders and subsequent eating disorder symptoms. “For the first time, we have established that epilepsy is followed by an increased risk of eating disorders - a phenomenon that had previously been described only in single case reports,” said Tegethoff. “This suggests that approaches to epilepsy treatment could also have potential in the context of eating disorders.”
Earlier studies by the same researchers suggested a temporal relationship exists between physical and mental disorders in young people. This latest study provides more insight into the causal link between these issues, and carries implications for the assessment and treatment of mental and physical illnesses.
“From a health policy perspective, the findings underscore that the treatment of mental disorders and physical diseases should be closely interlinked from an early age on,” says Tegethoff.
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