The vast majority of people who experience depression, anxiety, and related conditions are most likely able to find the source of their difficulties looming in patterns of thinking, stemming from unresolved trauma, or methods of coping with past events. Yet for some people coping with depression, very physical problem may be present; a new study released by researchers with the University of Chicago has shown that the presence of breast tumors in laboratory mice was a significantly strong indicator of depressed or anxious behavior.
While the idea that a looming medical problem will likely have an adverse effect on overall mental health is certainly a valid one, the study suggests that the particular relationship between breast tumors and depression is especially powerful. After careful analysis of cytokines in the brain, the researchers concluded that the presence of tumors was enough to induce depressed and anxious symptoms in the animals. Of course, the results have little to no bearing on the idea that those with depression–a fair percentage of the national and global populations–are especially prone to breast or other cancers. But as the inverse appears to be true in the majority of cases, proponents of therapy and specialized care for patients with cancer may take the research as an important ally for advocacy and change.
Traditionally, ideas about cancer and other serious illnesses have suggested that the sick are simply more prone to feeling low as a result of hospital stays or physical exhaustion. Yet for many people afflicted with physical illness, mental illness may be deeply rooted in the chemical balances of the brain. As more work is undertaken to examine the relationship between tumors and depression, the need for therapists with insight on the impact of sickness on mental health will likely rise.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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