How Depression and Anxiety Affect Your Physical Health

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“Depression decreases a person’s ability to analyze and rationally respond to stress,” said Dr. Spiegel. “They find themselves in a vicious cycle with a limited ability to come out of a negative mental state.”

To make matters worse, excessive anxiety and depression often coexist, leaving people vulnerable to an array of physical ailments and an inability to adopt and follow needed therapy.

A study of 1,204 older Korean men and women initially assessed for depression and anxiety found that two years later, these emotional disturbances increased their risk for physical disturbances and disability. Anxiety alone was linked to heart disease, depression alone was linked to asthma, and the two together were linked to vision problems, persistent cough, asthma, hypertension, heart disease and to gastrointestinal problems.

Although persistent anxiety and depression are highly treatable with medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and talk therapy, without treatment these conditions tend to worsen. According to Dr. John Frownfelter, the treatment of any condition works best when doctors understand “the pressures patients face that affect their behavior and lead to clinical harm.”

Dr Frownfelter is an internist and chief medical officer for a start-up called Jvion. The organization uses artificial intelligence to identify not only medical factors, but also psychological, social and behavioral factors that may impact the effectiveness of treatment on the health of patients. Its goal is to promote more holistic treatment approaches that address the whole patient, body and mind combined.

The scans used by Jvion, a Hindi word for give birth, could alert a doctor when an underlying depression could interfere with the effectiveness of treatments prescribed for another condition. For example, patients treated for diabetes who feel hopeless may not improve because they only take their prescribed medications sporadically and are not following an appropriate diet, Dr Frownfelter said.

“We often talk about depression as a complication of a chronic illness,” Dr. Frownfelter wrote in Medpage Today in July. “But what we don’t talk about enough is how depression can lead to chronic illness. Patients with depression may not have the motivation to exercise regularly or cook healthy meals. Many also find it difficult to get enough sleep.


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