Mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression may make asthma symptoms worse, researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle say.
Researchers surveyed 767 11- to 17-year-olds with asthma and asked how often they experienced common asthma symptoms and other related symptoms (such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, coughing, a lingering cold, headache, rash, itchy eyes, stuffy nose or congestion, difficulty sleeping) within the last 2 weeks. In addition, the adolescents reported whether they experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression.
About 16% had one or more anxiety or depression disorders within the previous year. Girls, teens whose parents had a high school education or less, teens who'd recently been diagnosed with asthma, teens who took only one type of asthma control medicine, and those who had other chronic diseases in addition to asthma were all more likely to have anxiety or depressive disorder.
The severity of a teen's anxiety or depression was linked to asthma symptoms. Youth with higher levels of anxiety or depression were significantly more likely to report the six most common asthma symptoms — shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, coughing, lingering cold, and wheezing with a cold.
The study’s authors suggest that youth with asthma and anxiety or depression may have trouble coping with asthma symptoms or may have difficulty distinguishing between anxiety-related symptoms and asthma-related symptoms.
What This Means to You. Recognizing and treating mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression may help teens with asthma reduce their symptoms, the authors of this study suggest. Symptoms like prolonged sadness or irritability, fatigue, appetite changes, or changes in sleeping habits may indicate a mental health disorder. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you suspect your child needs evaluation for anxiety or depression.
Source: Laura P. Richardson, MD, MPH; Paula Lozano, MD, MPH; Joan Russo, PhD; Elizabeth McCauley, PhD; Terry Bush, PhD; Wayne Katon, MD; Pediatrics, September 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2006