When a person is diagnosed with heart disease, cancer, or another life-limiting or life-threatening physical ailment, it is natural for them to become anxious or depressed. Excessive anxiety or sadness, on the other hand, can hasten the onset of a major physical disease and even impair one’s ability to tolerate or recover from one. The potential consequences are especially timely, given that the pandemic’s ongoing stress and disruptions continue to have a negative impact on mental health.
The human body does not understand the medical profession’s artificial distinction between mental and physical illnesses. Mind and body, on the other hand, are a two-way street. What happens inside a person’s head can have negative consequences throughout the body, and vice versa. Untreated mental illness increases the likelihood of becoming physically unwell, while physical ailments can lead to behaviors that exacerbate mental illnesses.
Dr. David Spiegel and his colleagues at Stanford University School of Medicine, discovered decades ago that women whose depression was lessening lived longer than those whose depression was getting worse in trials that examined how patients with breast cancer fared. His research and other investigations have conclusively demonstrated that “the brain is intimately connected to the body and the body to the brain,” Dr. Spiegel said in an interview. “The body tends to react to mental stress as if it was a physical stress.”
Despite this evidence, he and other specialists believe that clinicians neglect chronic emotional discomfort far too often. A physician would frequently prescribe a therapy for physical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, only to be perplexed as to why some patients deteriorate rather than improve.
Many people are hesitant to seek help for emotional disorders. Even if they understand they have a serious psychological illness, some people with anxiety or depression may be afraid of being stigmatized. Many people try to self-medicate their emotional anguish by engaging in risky activities like binge drinking or drug abuse, which just adds insult to injury.
And, unknowingly reinforcing a person’s denial of mental illness, family and friends may describe it as “just the way he is” and do little to encourage them to seek professional help.
What is the prevalence of anxiety and depression?
Anxiety disorders impact roughly 20% of adults in the United States. As a result, millions of people are suffering from an oversupply of the fight-or-flight response, which prepares the body for action. When you’re stressed, your brain triggers the release of cortisol, which acts as a natural alarm system. It evolved to aid animals face physical hazards by increasing breathing, increasing heart rate, and shifting blood flow from abdominal organs to muscles that help them fight or flee danger.
The neurotransmitters adrenaline and norepinephrine, which excite the sympathetic nervous system and put the body on high alert, are responsible for these protective effects. When they are used excessively and indiscriminately, however, prolonged overstimulation can cause a variety of health problems, including indigestion, cramps, diarrhoea, or constipation, as well as an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
While depression is less frequent than persistent anxiety, it can be just as harmful to one’s physical health. While it’s natural to feel down from time to time, more than 6% of adults experience depression so frequently that it affects personal relationships, interferes with work and play, and limits their ability to cope with daily obstacles. Chronic depression can aggravate a person’s sense of pain and raise the likelihood of chronic pain.
“Depression diminishes a person’s capacity to analyze and respond rationally to stress,” Dr. Spiegel said. “They end up on a vicious cycle with limited capacity to get out of a negative mental state.”
Excessive anxiety and depression frequently coexist, leaving people exposed to a variety of physical problems as well as an inability to adopt and stick with necessary therapy.
A study of 1,204 senior Korean men and women who were first diagnosed with depression and anxiety discovered that these emotional diseases enhanced their risk of physical disorders and incapacity two years later. Anxiety was connected to heart illness on its own, depression was linked to asthma on its own, and the two together were linked to vision problems, chronic cough, asthma, hypertension, heart disease, and gastrointestinal issues.
Emotional burdens can be mitigated with treatment.
Despite the fact that persistent anxiety and depression are highly treatable with drugs, cognitive behavioral therapy, and talk therapy, these diseases tend to worsen if not treated. Treatment for any ailment works better when doctors understand “the forces patients confront that alter their behavior and result in clinical harm,” according to Dr. John Frownfelter.
Dr. Frownfelter is an internist and the chief medical officer of the Jvion start-up. Artificial intelligence is used by the business to detect not just medical elements, but also psychological, social, and behavioral ones that can affect the efficiency of treatment on patients’ health. Its goal is to promote more holistic therapy approaches that address the full patient, body and mind.
Its goal is to promote more holistic therapy approaches that address the full patient, body and mind.