When a person first notices the onset of symptoms associated with an illness, one’s reasoning usually points to a physiological cause. In other cases, somatic effects can also be tracked down to a mental condition or disorder. These two types of similar instances create a decent level of confusion for patients and medical professionals alike when making accurate diagnoses. However, while the results of mental and general health exams may be difficult to distinguish sometimes, more crossover between mind and body may be at work than previously thought.
Matters become increasingly twisted when dealing with viruses and other infectious diseases in particular. Statistically, mental health disorders and infectious diseases constitute some of the largest medical burdens of people around the world. As such, much overlap has occurred and continues to occur as both categories grow in prevalence. Recent research of this trend has attempted to both examine and explain why a grey area exists between the two worlds.
A 2011 study found that mice infected with a strain of influenza exhibited higher levels of anxiety. After analyzing the relationship thoroughly, two major links between anxiety and the flu were determined. Firstly, the presence of anxiety during a case of flu can exacerbate the overall symptoms, making the recovery process longer and more difficult to overcome. Secondly, severe cases of anxiety can imitate symptoms of the flu. Dizziness, aches and even intense feelings of heat and chilliness can easily convince a person that he or she has a disease rather than a psychological issue. Most importantly, anxiety can significantly compromise an individual’s immune system, which can lead to the development of an actual medical illness. Combined with existing anxiety, differentiating an anxiety disorder from a virus becomes a much more arduous task.
Additional studies also investigated the same connection, some even finding positive correlations. During the H1N1 pandemic from 2009 to 2010, various samples were surveyed for levels and types of anxiety. One finding included the identification of state anxiety, which is defined by brief feelings of apprehension, tension and fright about a particular situation or activity. Interestingly, this type of anxiety was actually associated with preventative measures, as those with this uneasiness were more likely to wash hands and uphold good protective hygiene during the prevalence of the disease. However, in highly serious cases of flu subsequent respiratory issues that can arise, like acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, higher levels of anxiety are associated with life-threatening complications and even death.
Another prominent virus that was explored for its ties to anxiety was the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. The illness is most related to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which is usually the result of a traumatic life event. For many with HIV, the initial diagnosis of the condition is perceived as an experience of trauma, either due to the major life change the illness represents or the social stigma surrounding it. Events leading up to the diagnosis can also be sources of trauma as people who suffer from HIV either engage in risky behaviors, such as shared needles, or are victims of sexual violence.
Overall, an accruement of academic research heavily supports a correlation between anxiety and other medical diseases, especially viruses. Although the mental disorder does not directly cause infections to happen, anxiety can influence behavior in different ways and even weaken the body’s immunity to contagious varieties of sickness.
One of the leading psychological afflictions is anxiety, which can range from generalized anxiety disorder to specific phobias. While many distinctions within these conditions exist, each shares overwhelming levels of stress that can erupt into episodes of total panic. Unfortunately, for many trying to identify the cause of their respective distress, anxiety symptoms are shared in an array of different medical ailments. For those who have difficulty pinpointing the source of their problem, seeking the opinion of a professional may be necessary.
At Anxiety Treatment Centers of California, we focus on keeping these lines of support available for those who need it. Whether you need an initial consultation or are actively seeking aid, our team is here for you. Contact our 24/7 helpline today through online chat or call 855-972-9459.