Asthma is one of the common non-contiguous pulmonary diseases in the world, (World Health Organization, 2013). This chronic disease causes inflammations and mucus that constrict the passage of the lungs, causing severe difficulty in breathing in the patient.
Asthma, a long time ago, has since been confirmed as a condition that could negatively affect the mental state of patients over time (Van Lieshouta and MacQueenb, 2012). The severity of the symptoms of the disease and the stress it exerts on the nervous system can put a strain on the psychological condition of patients, both children, and adults.
Over the years, research has shown a link between these respiratory conditions and mental disorders. Studies have also confirmed the higher occurrence of two of the most common mental conditions (depression and anxiety) and other psychological conditions with people living with asthma compared to those without (Di Marco, Santus and Centanni, 2011).
In this article, we'll be examining asthma effects on the mental health of patients. To be able to properly familiarise ourselves with this topic, we'll be briefly examining some of the previous studies done in this area.
In a paper by Van Lieshouta and MacQueenb (2012), the epidemiological evidence to confirm the association between some psychological disorders or conditions, like depression, mood and anxiety disorder, etc was established. In their study, Van Lieshouta and MacQueenb firstly observed that, over the years, there have been studies confirming the epidemiological presence of a link between asthma, and allergic and mental disorders. Two of these mental disorders that commonly arise in asthmatic patients are depression and anxiety which can, in turn, lead to "high burden" and a more costly health measure for individuals with the respiratory condition.
This study goes on to confirm that why mental disorders commonly appear in the general population, they have been scientifically confirmed to occur more in asthmatic patients and people with other respiratory diseases.
The reasons for this common co-occurrence of asthma and some mental disorders were established. One of them is the proposition that the repeated reoccurrence of the symptoms of asthma — shortness of breath, cough, chest pressure, and so on — could lead to fear or the appearance of catastrophic thoughts that could, at the end of the day, lead to anxiety problems (Katon, Richardson, Lozano, and co-occurrence, 2004).
Asthma was found to "share common "pathophysiological pathways" with mental illnesses. There's also the possibility that they share "common susceptibility genes and/or environmental risk factors that account for the high rates of comorbidity" in patients (Van Lieshouta and MacQueenb, 2012).
This study also highlights a biological theory that has been used by researchers to support the argument for the epidemiological association of mental health and asthma;
The Theory suggests that "the repeated episodes of hypoxia and hypercapnia results in the brain producing circuits that could modulate the responses of the patients to fear, including those in the locus ceruleus and amygdala to become hyperactive in response to asthma attacks or the experiences of shortness of breath" (Van Lieshouta and MacQueenb, 2012).
In their conclusion, they found asthma to have more deleterious effects on the mental state of the patients, commonly with young patients who may be overwhelmed by the repeated occurrence of the symptoms associated with the disease.
They also call for more work to be done in understanding the environmental and genetic factors that determine the development of depression in asthma patients. They also suggest that an "optimal approach" can be developed in the management of depression and anxiety in asthmatic patients (Van Lieshouta and MacQueenb, 2012).
Rodriguez (2019), highlighted poor asthma control as one of the factors that could lead to psychological disorders in the patients. In her interview with researchers who have primarily focused on the psychological effects of asthma on the mental health of the patients, it was explained that serious sadness produces bronchoconstriction and also vagus nerve activation in children with asthma.
She examined the work of Del Giacco et al who concluded that comorbidity that exists between asthma and its effects on one's psychology could, in part, be a result of the genetic influences the patient's symptomatic experiences.
The level of disease control and the severity of asthmatic symptoms have also been said to be the major causes of psychologically affective traits in patients (Lurie et al, 2017). Therapy and the course of managing this disease in patients can also eventually cause a mental strain on the patients.
However, despite many of the studies that have been conducted on the mental-asthma connection, a causal link has not been clearly established (Baiardini et al, 2015).
Consequently, it has been observed that the presence of mental disorders in asthmatic patients often affects the management of asthma with more negative outcomes at the end of the day (Braido, 2013). So, to improve the mental well-being of people with asthma, scientists have been urged to devise an appropriate approach to solving this problem, whether pharmacologically or non-pharmacologically.
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