Monday, May 10, 2010

Asthma linked to anxiety and depression

So, do you have a little anxiety or depression to go along with your asthma? If so, new studies show you are not alone.

As a matter of fact, studies show that "Asthma may affect more than your ability to breathe, it may also make you more prone to developing psychological problems."

That's according to a report by Serena Gordon over at Healthday News.

She writes that "People with asthma are more than twice as likely to have depression or anxiety as people who don't have the chronic airway disease, according to a report in the March issue of the journal Chest."

The report notes that as serious psychological distress went up, the ability of the asthmatic to take care of himself went down. Dr. David Callahan, one of the reports authors, said the following:

"The prevalence of serious psychological distress was 2.5 times higher among adults with asthma, and as serious psychological distress increased, health-related quality went down. So, asthma makes quality of life worse and serious psychological distress makes quality of life worse, and together they synergistically make quality of life even worse."

This is of particular interest to me, because I remember when I was a kid pacing the living room anxious about my health, or of dying, or worried that the guy on the news who murdered his family in Flint will slip into our home at night and murder us all. Seriously, my parents actually had to ground me from watching the news.

When my asthma got really bad in 1985, and my parents had me admitted to National Jewish Health, I was diagnosed with anxiety. While my estimated stay was 6-8 weeks, I ended up spending 6 months there, the last three months in a 24 bed medical/psychological floor called 2-May.

The reason I had to stay there was because my doctors believed anxiety was inhibiting my ability to care for myself. In retrospect I have to say I agree with my doctors, yet back then I refused to accept I had such a problem. Typical teenager, right?

While I was very unhappy that I had to stay there, and the fact I was 3,000 miles from home exacerbated my anxiety, I do think the therapy I received there benefited me greatly. What worked best were the relaxation classes I participated in. To be honest, I still use the techniques I learned.

So, anyway, that's why this new report is of such interest to me. I still have some anxiety from time to time, yet you'd never know it if you met me, and it never impedes my ability to take care of myself. Perhaps this is due to my stay on 2-May (you can read about my stay at the asthma hospital by clicking here).

Also interesting was this this report from the University of Washington News from 2007 that notes: "Young people with asthma are about twice as likely to suffer from depressive and anxiety disorders than are children without asthma, according to a study by a research team in Seattle."

Obviously asthma doctors made that connection years ago between asthma and psychological, hence 2-May program.

Now, it should be noted here that, according to, "Emotions do not cause asthma, but can make asthma worse, because strong feelings can lead to changes in breathing patterns. Times of 'good' stress and 'bad' stress can cause problems for people with asthma."

By "good" stress I think they are referring to excitement such as laughing, and by bad stress they mean anxiety and depression.

This is an important point to note because in the 1800s asthma experts, like Henry Hyde Salter in his book "On Asthma" actually believed asthma was literally a psychological or psychosomatic disorder, in that it was anxiety and distress that caused people to develop asthma.

At the asthma hospital I met many asthmatics who had both asthma and some sort of psychological disorder, be it anxiety or depression or whatever. In fact, my asthmatic co-worker just admitted she too has some anxiety.

No, none of us are crazy, and neither are you if you have episodes of anxiety or depression to go along with your asthma. Most of us learn to deal with it through the course of our lives, and some of us -- like me when I was a kid -- might need a little help.

1 comment:

  1. I think most of the diseases are psychosomatic in nature...some more and some less.because all the diseases of the body arise in the mental state and effect it the most.