Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It can affect children, college students, adults and the elderly.
And unfortunately, after someone is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the risk of developing another increases, a new study confirms.
Although this initially comes off as bad news, the researchers were able to spin it into something positive that can help students, children and adults who are suffering from a mental disorder.
With the information gathered in the study, the researchers developed an interactive webpage that the public can use — via the “Results” tab on the top right corner — to assess their likelihood of a double diagnosis, depending on age, sex, time and type of mental disorder.
What this does is give clinicians and individual people with mental health problems the ability to check which additional disorders they, specifically, are most likely to develop, so they can take the correct precautionary steps.
“We want to ‘democratize’ the results so that they are more widely understood by clinicians and people with mental disorders and their caregivers,” John McGrath, the Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus BSS – the School of Business and Social Sciences at Aarhus University – and co-author of the study, said in a statement.
“We hope that this new information will help the clinicians to monitor the development of mental disorders,” he continued. “This is especially important for people who develop a mental disorder when they are young.”
The researchers used data from 5.9 million people living in Denmark from 2000 to 2016 to determine how different types of disorders accumulate throughout different people’s life spans.
They took people with mood disorders and compared them to people of a similar age and sex without a diagnosed mood disorder. They found that those with a pre-existing mood disorders are 10 times more likely to develop anxiety-related disorders.
The researchers also found that one-third of people with depressive disorder will develop an anxiety-related disorder throughout their lives.
And the chance of developing an additional disorder doesn’t necessarily go away with time. Increased risk of comorbidity — the presence of two or more disorders at a time — can persist for over 15 years, the researchers found.
“We knew from previous smaller studies that some types of disorder tended to occur together,”
Oleguer Plana-Ripoll, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus BSS and the main author of the study, said in a statement.
“But now we can confirm that comorbidity is the rule, not the exception,” he continued. “Those who receive a diagnosis of a specific major mental disorder are more likely to receive diagnoses for all other types of mental disorders.”
A paper describing the full study is published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
What this means
For someone suffering from a depressive disorder, being diagnosed with anxiety is adding insult to injury.
Mental health disorders wear on people, absorbing all of their time, energy and thought.
The findings from this study, however, can prepare people by giving them the information they need to better manage their mental health.
“It is a large and comprehensive study that provides never-before-seen details of the relationship between the different mental disorders. We have provided the field with fine-grain details,” Plana-Ripoll said in a statement.
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Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.