Anxiety disorders are debilitating psychological disorders characterized by a wide range of cognitive and somatic symptoms. Anxiety sufferers have a higher lifetime prevalence of various medical problems. Chronic medical conditions furthermore increase the likelihood of psychiatric disorders and overall dysfunction. Lifetime rates of cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and other medical problems are disproportionately high in anxiety and panic/fear sufferers. The heightened comorbidity is not surprising as many symptoms of anxiety and panic/fear mimic symptoms of medical conditions. Panic disorder specifically is strongly linked to medical conditions due to its salient somatic symptoms, such as dyspnea, dizziness, numbness, chest pain, and heart palpitations, all of which can signal danger and deterioration for chronic disease sufferers. This chapter identifies shared correlates of medical illness and anxiety disorders and evidence for misinterpretation of symptoms as medically relevant and offers an analysis of implications for treatment of both types of conditions. We will concentrate on medical conditions with high associations for anxiety and panic by aspects of symptomatology, specifically neurological disorders (fibromyalgia, epilepsy, cerebral palsy), diabetes, gastrointestinal illness (irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease), and cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses (asthma).
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