Anxiety Can Affect Your Medical Diagnosis

If you've been feeling ill, it would not be unreasonable to also be experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression. A number of past studies have looked at the relationship between those negative feelings and symptom reporting in order to offer guidance to doctors trying to make treatment decisions. Those studies tended to find that negative feelings such as sadness, anxiety, fear, and anger could be linked to inflated reports of physical symptoms - something that both doctors and patients should be aware of in order to more accurately diagnose and treat physical illness. A new study, however, is one of the first to look at two of those negative emotions individually, providing more insight into how anxiety and depression affect symptom reporting.

Researchers at the University of Iowa conducted a study that showed feelings of depression and anxiety actually appear to affect symptom reporting in different ways. People who are depressed tend to report experience more symptoms in the past, while people who are anxious report experience more symptoms at the present time. Co-author Jerry Suls summed up the results by saying, "Our data suggest that a person who walks into a physician’s office feeling sad will tend to recall experiencing more symptoms than they probably really did. If a person comes into the physician’s office feeling fearful, they’re more likely to scan their body and read any sensations they’re experiencing at that moment as something wrong. We believe this is because depression is associated with rumination and exaggerated recall of negative experiences, while anxiety is associated with vigilance for potentially negative things in the present time.”

So if you're feeling anxious or depressed at your next check-up, you might want to keep this study in mind and give a little extra thought to reporting your symptoms as accurately as possible - it will help you get the diagnosis and treatment plan that best fits your illness.


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