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It's Not All In Your Head: Medical Problems Can Cause Mental Ones


Depression, anxiety, sudden mood changes -- all these mental issues can actually be caused by medical problems.

More than 100 medical disorders can be misdiagnosed as psychological conditions, causing months, even years, of frustration and ineffective treatment, Harvard psychiatrist Barbara Schildkrout tells the Wall Street Journal.

Studies have suggested that medical conditions may cause mental health issues in as many as 25 percent of psychiatric patients and contribute to them in more than 75 percent. Schildkrout says even experienced therapists can find it difficult to sort out the cause and effect of medical ailments on mental health.

About one-third of people who have their first episode of depression after age 55 have changes in brain circuits that are associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart attacks, according to Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y.

In some cases, a psychological problem is the first sign of a serious medical issue, Kennedy tells the newspaper, which is why checking a patient's blood pressure and blood-sugar level is crucial.

Many medications also list mood changes among their side effects.

Here is a list of psychological conditions that may be caused or influenced by medical problems, according to the article:

Depression: Under-active thyroid; low vitamin D, B12 or folate; diabetes; hormonal changes; heart disease; Lyme disease; lupus; head trauma; sleep disorders; some cancers and cancer drugs.

Anxiety: Over-active thyroid, respiratory problems; very low blood pressure; concussion; anaphylactic shock.

Irritability: Brain injury; temporal lobe epilepsy; Alzheimer's disease and early stage dementia; parasitic infection; hormonal changes.

Hallucinations: Epilepsy; brain tumor; fever; narcolepsy; substance abuse.

Cognitive changes: Brain injury or infection; Alzheimer's; Parkinson's; liver failure; mercury or lead poisoning.

Psychosis: Venereal disease; brain tumors and cysts; stroke; epilepsy; steroids; substance abuse.

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