Even today, we pay very little attention to our mental health status. Unless a severe mental illness or defect is observed, we let feelings of anxiety, depression, or heightened stress go untreated. Recent research indicates that may be a mistake, as scientists discover a correlation between mental and physical health.


Depression and Chronic Illness

You might say depression has a love affair with chronic illness because the two seem inseparable. A 2009 study looked at patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and found that mild depression was common in up to 22% of them. The study used the standard Beck Depression Inventory test and identified mild depression as having a score of 14 or higher. The researchers also reported that 17% of the subjects were taking antidepressants at the time of the study.


According to David Goldberg, a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, patients with chronic illness is three times more likely to experience depression. He added that the relationship between the two conditions is reciprocal. He says chronic illness instigates the development of depression in many cases but also points out that a pre-existing state of depression can cause some chronic illnesses to manifest.


Medical Treatment Should Include Mental Illness Therapy

When someone is undergoing treatment for a physical condition, that’s the primary concern of the physician, often to the exclusion of other concerns. There’s a growing initiative now to urge caregivers to take mental health into concern, as well. Certainly, the treatment of a physical illness should be a great concern, but, as David Goldberg points out, the treatment of mental health issues, such as depression, should be integrated into the overall treatment plan.


In Goldberg’s view, the doctor treating the physical illness or condition should work in tandem with a mental health professional. This way, both treatments can be integrated and the patient can experience the benefits of both simultaneously. In many cases, depression can be treated with simple lifestyle changes or regular group therapy sessions and, as the patient’s mental health improves, so will his outlook on his illness.


Already, healthcare providers are beginning to incorporate this philosophy into their practice, where the treatment of cancer patients is concerned. The nature of a cancer diagnosis can often instigate the development of depression and anxiety, so physicians urge patients to attend support groups and work with a therapist. In facing any chronic physical condition, the mental state of the patient affects the effectiveness of the treatment. Patients with a positive outlook are more likely to recover and at a faster rate than those struggling with depression and stress.