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Psychological Symptoms of Medical Conditions

It is important to emphasize the fact that underlying medical conditions can cause or mimic certain psychological symptoms. 

Herpes Simplex Virus

  • Personality changes
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Inconsistent behavior
  • Mental deterioration
In some cases, it is clear that a mental disorder is due to a medical condition.  For example, stroke victims have a higher than normal risk of developing major depression.  However, in other cases, such as thyroid disease, environmental poisoning, or allergies, the only apparent symptoms may be feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep disturbances, or decreases in cognitive functioning.  These symptoms may occur in combination with vague bodily aches and pains.  Only a thorough examination of the causes of psychological symptoms can lead to a discovery of the underlying medical condition.
Over 100 medical conditions can manifest themselves through psychological symptoms.  Studies have suggested that medical conditions may cause mental health issues in as many as 25% of mental health patients.
It is extremely important not to take medical considerations for granted in psychology.  If you see a clinician for a psychological problem and they do not ask you about your medical history or symptoms, leave them immediately and find a new psychologist.
Most psychologists rely on primary-care doctors to spot these conditions, but it is
reasonable to assume that a primary-care physician knows significantly less about their patient than a psychologist.  Due to time constraints and infrequent appointments, medical doctors simply might not know there is even a problem.  In addition, patients tend not to share their psychological symptoms with their primary-care physician.
Even psychiatrists, who deal with mental health conditions on a regular basis, may not see a patient long enough or often enough to recognize that psychological symptoms may be the result of a medical disorder.
Celiac Disease
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Impatience
  • Hyperactivity
  • Ataxia
  • Fatigue
  • "Brain Fog"
can also be symptomatic of many medical conditions.  Low blood pressure, concussions, epilepsy, hypoglycemia, and other medical conditions cause anxiety.  What might seem like depression could actually be an underactive thyroid, Parkinson's disease, the results of a stroke, vitamin B12 or D deficiency, Lyme disease, celiac disease, lupus, head trauma, or many other conditions.  Irritability can be a symptom of medical conditions such as epilepsy, hormonal changes, or even some parasitic infections.  Sudden cognitive or personality changes can occur due to mercury or lead poisoning.
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Poor memory
Some of the straightforward signs to detecting an underlying medical condition are sudden significant changes in energy, weight, appetite, or sleep.  This can be due to an endocrine disorder.
Psychologists need to be aware of their clients' medical conditions prior to beginning psychological work.  Even seemingly unimportant details, like a swollen throat or dry mouth, could be signs of an underlying medical condition.  Sending a client to get blood work done can save years of unnecessary pain and suffering.
B12 Deficiency
  • Sadness
  • Low concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Psychosis
  • Cognitive impairment
Dr. Spector pays serious attention to individuals' health issues.  She collaborates with physicians, allergists, endocrinologists,  and other specialists to correctly diagnose her clients.  This helps in the successful treatment of presenting conditions.