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Saturday, July 13, 2024


Mental health specialists isolate and categorize each psychological phenomenon in order to study it in detail and hence understand it better. For example, a research project about the consequences of panic disorder on the family life will focus on people suffering only from panic disorder and no other condition. In this way, the results will reveal with certainty that the consequences of panic disorder on family life are attributable only to panic disorder and not to any other problems.

However, the realities of research are different from those in treatment. For the purposes of the research, the scientist can examine persons suffering only from panic. On the other hand, a person asking for treatment may suffer only from panic disorder, but it is not unlikely to suffer from panic disorder and something else too. This is because the human organism consists of various systems, each with its own functions. However, the function of each system is not isolated or independent fromthe other systems in the organism. Sometimes the function of a system affects the function of another system or is influenced by it.

In order to understand this better, we can parallel the human organism with a house. The house (human organism) usually accommodates more than one person (organic systems) at the same time. Humans/organic systems are autonomous but also interdependent to one another. For example, if, during the course of an evening, someone in the house turns off the lights in the kitchen, a person taking a shower in the bathroom will continue to see normally. But if the person in the kitchen turns the water tap on, then the person in the shower will feel a difference in the water temperature. Every room in the house has its own autonomy, in terms of the use of electricity. With regard to the use of water, however, while autonomy exists (both the person in the kitchen and the one in the bathroom have available water), there exists also interdependence (turning the tap in the kitchen changes the water temperature in the bathroom).

In the human organism, an anxiety disorder can exist by itself, with no additional consequences on the mental health of the sufferer, apart from those attributable to this particular disorder. But sometimes an anxiety disorder may facilitate the development of additional mental problems. In this latter case, the effectiveness of the treatment of the anxiety disorder may depend on the parallel treatment of the additional problem. For example, if someone suffers from panic disorder and major depressive disorder, it is essential to control the latter in order to cure the former. It is very similar to a medical reality: if a patient with a chronic respiratory insufficiency is going to have a coronary heart surgery, his respiratory problem must be taken into account during the operation, if the heart surgery is to be successful.

Mental health specialists, both researchers and therapists, want to give a name to this phenomenon of autonomy-interdependence between mental disorders. The name they have chosen is co-morbidity. Comorbidity means, that a specialist who undertakes the treatment of a person with anxiety problems must understand what is the basic difficulty of the patient (primary diagnosis) but must also examine for any added problems that may hinder the comprehensive treatment of the central concern (global diagnosis). The specialist’s full understanding of the clinical picture and the appropriate pronouncement of it to the person in need of help is essential for the success of the treatment.

Ask your therapist:

1.  What is your diagnosis?

2.  What is the best way to think about your diagnosis?

3.  Is there anything about you or your conditions in life that could be an obstacle to your treatment?

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