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Mental Disorders In Teenagers Leave Physical Signature Marks On The Body, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 28, 2016 09:30 AM EST

Mental disorders don't just affect the mental health of a teenager, it affects the entire body. In a new study conducted by a team from the University of Basel in Switzerland and Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, researchers found a significant link between mental disorders and physical disorders in teenagers.

For the study, researchers looked at data on 6,483 teenagers aged between 13 and 18 in the US and found that those suffering from depression also had digestive system diseases and arthritis and those with anxiety issues were more likely to have skin disorders. All influencing factors, such as lifestyle and sociodemographic variables were taken into consideration during the study.

"For the first time, we have established that epilepsy is followed by an increased risk of eating disorders - a phenomenon, that had previously been described only in single case reports. This suggests that approaches to epilepsy treatment could also have potential in the context of eating disorders," explained Marion Tegethoff, the study's lead author, in a press release.

The top findings of the study were:

  • Teenagers suffering from depression were more likely to have digestive problems and arthritis
  • Skin disorders were more common among teenagers suffering from anxiety
  • Anxiety problems were more common among teenagers who already had heart problems
  • Eating disorders were more common among teenagers who already experienced epilepsy

The researchers clarified that the study only shows a correlation between these disorders and doesn't suggest that these mental disorders cause these physical issues. Though a large sample was considered for the study, researchers highlighted that there were a few limitations. The data assessed for the research was based on a questionnaire given by interviewers, as well as information provided by the teens and their parents, and not an official diagnosis.

Though this is not the first time a study has been carried out on this subject, it is the first time researchers have been able to map which disorders came first. A similar study conducted earlier this year also highlighted a correlation between certain physical disorders and mental illnesses.

In 2008, researchers also established that people with mental disorders are at higher risk of experiencing a wide range of chronic physical conditions.

The current study was financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation and funding was also received from the Korea Research Foundation. The findings were published in PLOS ONE.

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