Examining Mental Disorders Occurring Together

Many treatment centers for mental disorders are addressing the symptoms of their patients in a new way. Armed with recent research about how physical and mental problems can affect one another and with a goal of treating the whole person, the treatment of mental disorders can be very complicated.

Treating the various mental and physical problems that a patient might be experiencing can make diagnosis and treatment a slow and difficult process. While there has been extensive research about the co-occurrence of some mental disorders, others have remained relatively unexamined.

Many studies have examined the combination of symptoms that can be witnessed in patients with mood and anxiety disorders. However, other disorders, such as bipolar disorder, have had little examination. In addition, there has also been extensive research conducted on the occurrence of depression, but little relating to how mood and anxiety disorders affect those with bipolar.

A recent study conducted by Fernando Goes from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine was undertaken to review this area of research.

The study was designed to look at clinical correlates and familiality within four types of anxiety disorders occurring within a sample of patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. The study enrolled a total of 1,416 participants with bipolar and 1,726 patients with depression.

The research team examined instances where panic, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder and individual phobias were affected by situations where there was a family history with instances of depression and bipolar.

The analysis showed that individuals who had the highest levels of comorbidity were the participants who had earlier onset ages and a higher frequency of depressive episodes. They were also more likely to have made a suicide attempt than those who were not comorbid. In addition, the researchers discovered that both genetic risk factors and family history risk factors were influential in comorbidity.

There was also a connection discovered between family history and phobias, but the relationship was not as marked as the other findings in the study. In addition, there was not a higher risk for comorbid social phobia connected with family history.

The study’s findings, however, clearly show that there is a higher risk for comorbidity among those who have a history of either major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, signaled first by increased levels of anxiety. Certain co-occurring anxiety symptoms may be a predictor for the later development of depression or bipolar.

The findings may help physicians identify those at a higher risk for disorders by screening patients experiencing their first symptoms of depression.

The study’s findings are published in a recent issue of the journal Psychological Medicine.

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