Understanding of Mind-Body Connection Helpful for Depression Treatment
> 10/19/2007 11:19:32 AM

Physical and emotional pain share biological pathways and neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, so it is not surprising that depression causes physical and well as mental symptoms. While some may believe that treating the mental symptoms of depression is most important, the results of a survey commissioned by the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) and the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) suggest the importance of treating both physical and mental symptoms. The survey shows that understanding the connection between mental and physical health helps doctors to diagnose their patients and helps patients to more fully understand and better manage their treatment.

The survey, which was conducted online, included 252 adults from France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia who had received at least one prescription for depression medication within the past year. Also included were 501 general practitioners who saw at least five patients for depression per month. The researchers classified the participants as either understanding or not understanding the mind-body connection by asking them how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements relating to the link between mental and physical health.

The study's results indicate that most physicians, 82% of those surveyed, believe that treating physical symptoms is an important aspect of helping patients overcome depression. Of those who understood the mind-body connection, 82% reported asking their depression patients about physical symptoms, compared with only 54% of those who did not understand the mind-body connection. Overall, 85% of physicians agreed that understanding the mind-body connection helps them to reach a diagnosis faster, and understanding the link between physical pain and depression could also help doctors reach a more accurate diagnosis. Of all physicians surveyed, 63% worried that not understanding the mind-body connection could cause doctors to misdiagnose depression as a pain condition.

Understanding the link between mental and physical symptoms and discussing the link with a doctor can also help patients to better manage their treatment. Of those who did not discuss the mind-body connection with their physicians, only 67% said they understood how their treatment would help them, compared with 82% of those who did discuss the connection with their doctors. Patients who understood the mind-body connection were also more likely to seek treatment earlier after first experiencing symptoms, waiting an averaged of 90 weeks. Those who did not understand the mind-body connection waited an average of 148 weeks. The survey also indicates that those who understand how mental and physical health interact are better able to address all of their symptoms. 91% of those who understood the mind-body connection believed that treating both physical and mental symptoms would help them recover. Only 61% of those who did understand the connection reported the same belief.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects an estimated 121 million people around the world, and this survey indicates that by discussing the link between the mind and the body, doctors can help their patients to better understand and manage their depression treatment. Depression causes both emotional and physical pain, but by addressing the mind-body connection, we can better educate patients about their condition and help them to ease all of their pain.

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