Exploring Comorbidity Within Mental Disorders
Question: After an individual receives a diagnosis of a specific mental disorder, does the risk of developing other mental disorders increase?
Answer: Yes, comorbidity within mental disorders is pervasive. There is an increased risk of developing all other mental disorders after an index mental disorder. The risk of developing comorbidity was most prominent in the first year after the onset of a mental disorder. Moreover, the increased risk persisted over at least 15- years. For some disorders (eg, mood disorders) the absolute risks of developing specific later disorders (eg, anxiety disorders) was significant (e.g, 30%-40% over 5 years).
Researchers map out the relationship between mental disorders
Half of those who develop a severe mental disorder such as depression prior to the age 20, will also develop an anxiety disorder within the next 15 years. This is just one of the many results on the relationship between various mental disorders mapped out.
The new research is the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive description of the risks of double diagnosis within the ten major groups of mental disorders – also called comorbidity. Based on register data from 5.9 million people.
This is the first study to provide a comprehensive description of all possible associations between pairs of mental disorders using national registers available for a whole population. We knew from previous smaller studies that some types of disorder tended to occur together. Now, we can confirm that comorbidity is the rule, not the exception. Those who receive a diagnosis of a specific major mental disorder are more likely to receive diagnoses for all other types of mental disorders.
In the study, the researchers uncovered how different types of mental disorders accumulate across a lifespan. Due to the size of the study, the researchers were able to measure the absolute risks of people developing more than one mental disorder later in life. The study showed that people who are diagnosed with one mental disorder are not only more likely to be diagnosed with other mental disorders, but also that this risk persists for many years after the first diagnosis.
Conclusions and Relevance of Comorbidity Within Mental Disorders
Comorbidity within mental disorders is pervasive, and the risk persists over time. This study provides disorder-, sex-, and age-specific relative and absolute risks of the comorbidity of mental disorders. Web-based interactive data visualization tools are provided for clinical utility.
The results have just been published in JAMA Psychiatry, which is one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals in the field of psychiatry. The researchers have also developed an interactive webpage that offers professionals and the general public access to examine the risks of double diagnoses according to age, sex and type of mental disorder.
Clinical Study citation link: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2720421
The findings of the study available on an interactive data visualization webpage (http://www.nbepi.com).
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Thank you for your time,
Dr. Shawna Freshwater
Licensed Clinical Psychologist and NeuroPsychologist
MindBody Holistic Practitioner