Bridging the Gap Between Physical and Mental Illness

Mental illness is widely misunderstood in society and it is still being researched for its causes.  There are still stigmas and taboos surrounding the topic of mental disorders, and unfortunately, these stigmas undermine efforts to understand the functions of such disorders. Recently, however, research has been geared at correlating physical illnesses and autoimmune diseases with developing mental disorders. Many risk factors can lead to developing mental illnesses, but this new research sheds light on possible connections between physical ailments and mental disorders.

According to the JAMA Psychiatry Network, a study was conducted using a Danish database of people born between 1945 and 1995 who had a mood disorder.  Of the 95,000 with a mental disorder, “36,000 had suffered a severe infection or developed an autoimmune disease (such as type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, lupus, and the like) at some point before being diagnosed with the mood disorder.”  Such research could possibly indicate a direct link of infections and diseases being a risk factor for developing mental illnesses.

More specifically, a link between Strep Throat and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) was explored in a Harvard Health Publishing article written by Jeff Symanski.  According to Dr. Symanski, “antibodies to the infectious agent cross the barrier that protects the brain from what’s circulating in the bloodstream.” Once this occurs, the antibodies inflame a structure known as the basal ganglia, which accounts for motor movements, thinking, and emotions. The research potentially links the two illnesses together.

By understanding a possible direct link between physical illnesses and mental health, society can progress towards de-stigmatizing mental illnesses and disorders. Research is constantly being conducted to find the causes of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and OCD.  Hopefully, /this will yield new results connecting physical illnesses being a risk factor in developing mental disorders.

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