07.11.2014
A new study performed by researchers at the University of Iowa suggests a difference in the reporting of physical symptoms between people who suffer from depression or anxiety. The study points out people with depression are more likely to report past physical symptoms, while people suffering from anxiety are more inclined to report present symptoms.
Researchers have for decades hypothesized that negative emotions lead to inflated reports of common physical symptoms, like headaches or an upset stomach.
Published in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the study indicates that people who feel depressed report experiencing a higher number of past symptoms. Understanding how factors such as mood influence symptom reporting is important because physicians make diagnosis and treatment decisions based on the symptoms patients report, how intense they are, and how frequently they occurred, said study author Jerry Suls, a professor of psychology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a visiting scientist at the National Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C. Previous studies have linked inflated symptom reports to “negative affect,” a disposition also known as neuroticism. In the first part of the study, 144 undergraduate students completed questionnaires to assess their level of “depressive affect,” and indicated which of 15 common physical symptoms they’d experienced in the past three weeks. Researchers repeated the writing exercise with another group of 120 students -– only this time they asked participants to report both current and retrospective symptoms.
Suls and Howren aren’t encouraging health care providers to discount symptoms by virtue of the patient’s mood. Study notes difference in reporting of physical symptoms between people suffering anxiety or depression. Depression is a more common word for the mental health disorder – Major Depressive Disorder. It is classified as an Axis I clinical disorder with a cluster of symptoms that often can be related to mood and behavior changes.
Situational Depression begins because of life changes and usually last for only a few days to a few weeks.
Clinical Depression usually lasts longer than Situational Depression and may or may not be surrounded by life changes. Often, Depression causes changes in family situations, sleep schedule, eating, school, work and life.


The clinical diagnosis of depression is based on a variety of symptoms and there is not a specific laboratory test to confirm depression. There appears to be a genetic component where family members all exhibit a different level of depression. Behavior changes such as job lost, bullies, significant fear or threat, death of a loved one, incarceration, and many many other changes can affect or stimulate depression.
Drug and Alcohol use can be a cause of depression in some cases or try to mask the symptoms. Other medications such as benzodiazepines, pain medications, elicit drug abuse and other medications can be taken in excess in those with depression. A review of mental health history is done, along with current symptoms, drug history, current social circumstances, and family history. Additionally, the research suggests people who suffered from depressive moods were more inclined to recall more physical problems than they actually experienced after the fact. But a new University of Iowa study suggests that two negative emotions –- depression and anxiety –- influence symptom reporting in different ways. Even after factoring out physical signs of depression, like appetite changes or sleep loss, researchers found that people who felt more depressed believed they had experienced more symptoms. On average, people in the anxious group reported five current symptoms, while those in the depressed and neutral groups only reported one or two.
They do, however, encourage medical professionals to be aware that different emotions appear to play into how patients perceive their current and past symptoms.
Other studies indicate that emotional instability (such as depressed or anxious moods) decreases around age 40, so older adults may be less subject to recall or encoding biases associated with physical symptoms.
Like riding a slow-motion roller coaster, patients may spend weeks feeling like they're on top of the world before plunging into a relentless depression.
However, when the UI researchers examined the influence of temperament on symptom recall, they isolated each emotion rather than lumping them together. Reflecting on the past three weeks, the sad participants reported experiencing seven symptoms on average, while the other groups only recalled about three.


Suls and Howren will focus future symptom-reporting research on older or chronically ill adults. Depressive Phase SymptomsWithout treatment, a person with bipolar disorder may experience intense episodes of depression.
Symptoms include sadness, anxiety, loss of energy, hopelessness, and difficulty concentrating.
Manic Phase SymptomsDuring a manic phase, patients tend to feel euphoric and may believe they can accomplish anything. This can result in inflated self-esteem, agitation, reduced need for sleep, being more talkative, being easily distracted, and a sense of racing thoughts. Having three or more of these symptoms nearly every day for a week may indicate a manic episode. Bipolar IIPeople with bipolar I disorder have manic episodes or mixed episodes and often have one or more depressive episodes. People with bipolar II have major depressive episodes with less severe mania; they experience hypomania, a condition that is less intense than mania or lasting less than a week. Patients may drink or abuse drugs to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of their mood swings.
A psychiatrist usually makes the diagnosis based on a careful history and evaluation of the patient's mood and other symptoms. Between acute states of mania or depression, patients typically stay on maintenance medication to avoid a relapse. Patients should also learn to identify their personal early warning signs of mania and depression. They may become frustrated with the depressive episodes and frightened by the manic states.



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