Mental health is intrinsically linked to physical health. When the mind is happy, the body reacts in a positive way and the person feels happy, energetic and excited. If a person remains sad and anxious, he/she is bound to suffer from physical ailments like acidity and low blood pressure. Studies have found that mental disorders like depression and anxiety are strong predictors of heart disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and obesity with an increased risk of stroke, diabetes and arthritis.
There are also implications of abnormal autoimmune activity in a number of neuropsychiatric illnesses. Since the 1930s, when for the first time autoantibodies were reported in a schizophrenia patient, the role of autoimmune dysfunction in psychiatric illness has been actively investigated. The immune system in normal circumstances guards against foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses by sending out an army of fighter cells to attack and kill them. However, in case of an autoimmune disease condition, the defense system starts attacking one’s own healthy body parts such as the joints or skin, mistaking it to be foreign.
Examples of autoimmune diseases include: Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Multiple sclerosis (MS), Type 1 diabetes, Guillain-barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, psoriasis, graves’ disease, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, myasthenia gravis and vasculitis among others.
Trauma stronger predictor of lupus than smoking
In a study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, women with symptoms of post-traumatic stress-disorder (PTSD) or those exposed to trauma have been found to be at increased risk of lupus. The disease can affect any part of the body (skin, joints or organs) and the symptoms tend to last for many years. The most distinctive sign of lupus is a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly spreading across both cheeks, but it may not occur in 100 percent of cases. It’s difficult to diagnose the condition and there is no absolute cure.
Researchers for the current study followed 54,763 women for 24 years and used a combination of diagnostic tools, screening tests and self-reporting surveys to determine if they had a positive diagnosis of lupus and PTSD. To determine if someone had been exposed to traumatic events, participants of the study were asked to fill the Brief Trauma Questionnaire. For detecting PTSD, screening tests were based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).
Among the participants, 73 were diagnosed with lupus during the study period. The researchers found that women who met the clinical criteria for PTSD were 2.94 times more liable to develop lupus in comparison to those who did not experience any trauma. Irrespective of whether PTSD symptoms were present or not, women who experienced any traumatic event were 2.87 times more liable to develop lupus.
The findings contribute to growing evidence of association of psychosocial trauma and associated stress responses to autoimmune diseases such as lupus. In fact, lead author, Dr. Andrea Roberts observed that trauma was a stronger predictor of lupus than smoking.
Dealing with mental health
Treating mental health conditions (either with medication, talk therapy, psychotherapy or a combination of all) can help to reduce the severity of the symptoms and the risk of acquiring physical health problems. What matters is that the suffering person asks for help, seeks support and does not hesitate to enroll in a treatment program for his/her benefit.
If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental disorder, contact the Texas Mental Health Recovery Helpline to access information regarding the best mental health recovery centers that specialize in evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline 866-596-4708 or chat online to know more.