Having an anxiety disorder is associated with having any type of physical problem, and specifically with respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, arthritis, allergies, thyroid diseases and migraine headaches.
Researchers from the department of psychiatry of University of Manitoba in Winnipeg (Canada) investigated the link between anxiety and illnesses.
The lead researcher, Dr. Sareen M.D., and his team used the German Health Survey (GHS), which was prepared between 1997 and 1999. This survey confirmed that among the 2,268 women and 1,913 men participating in the survey, 429 (8.4 %) had an anxiety disorder within the past month and 2,610 (60.8 %) had a physical problem within the past month.
Most individuals with both an anxiety disorder and physical illness developed the anxiety disorder first, and tended to have a poorer quality of life than those with anxiety disorders or physical problems alone. Those who had both types of disorders also were more likely to have one or more days of disability than those with physical illnesses alone.
The study offered other conclusions that may confirm that anxiety disorders and physical problems are closely connected:
- The researchers discovered that the anxiety disorder was more likely to have come about before the physical problem, and that the quality of life of the patient and their physical functioning were worse if they also had an anxiety disorder.
- The mechanisms of association between anxiety disorders and physical problems remain unknown, although several possibilities should be considered.
- A physical illness, particularly if severe, eventually increases anxiety, leading to an anxiety disorder. As well, anxiety leads to an increased chance of illness as the result of biological changes caused by the anxiety disorder.
- Most individuals with both an anxiety disorder and physical illness developed the anxiety disorder first, and tended to have a poorer quality of life than those with anxiety disorders or physical problems alone.
- There may be common genetic, environmental, and/or personality factors that connect anxiety disorders and certain physical problems.
Finally, Dr. Sareen advises that medical specialist should be careful with patients, especially those with the specific physical problems identified in the study. Although there have been increased efforts to recognize and treat depression in the medically ill, our findings underscore the need to create similar programs to recognize and treat anxiety disorders in the medically ill," Dr. Sareen suggests.