When mental and physical illnesses co-occur, a patients' account of physical illness is sometimes arbitrarily discredited or dismissed by physicians. Observing higher prevalence of certain physical illnesses among people who suffer from panic disorder, US researchers have proposed the existence of a spectrum syndrome comprising a core anxiety disorder and four related domains. This study points to a link between mental and physical health. Naming of the new disorder may help many patients receive proper diagnosis.
One of the researchers Jeremy Coplan, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in the US, said, "Patients who have certain somatic disorders, illnesses for which there is no detectable medical cause and which physicians may consider to be imagined by the patient, may instead have a genetic propensity to develop a series of real, related illnesses. Panic disorder itself may be a predictor for a number of physical conditions previously considered unrelated to mental conditions, and for which there may be no or few biological markers."
The researcher team found correlation between panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and physical illness, with significantly higher prevalence of certain physical illnesses among patients with panic disorder when compared to the general population. To describe the new spectrum disorder, they have coined the term ALPIM, where 'A' stands for anxiety disorder (mostly panic disorder); 'L' for ligamentous laxity (joint hypermobility syndrome, scoliosis, double-jointedness, mitral valve prolapse, easy bruising); 'P' stands for pain (fibromyalgia, migraine and chronic daily headache, irritable bowel syndrome, prostatitis/cystitis); 'I' for immune disorders (hypothyroidism, asthma, nasal allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome); and 'M' for mood disorders.
Coplan said, "Our argument is that delineations in medicine can be arbitrary and that some disorders that are viewed as multiple disparate and independent conditions may best be viewed as a single spectrum disorder with a common genetic etiology."
The study is published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences