The Intersection Of Physical And Behavioral Health Care

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The Intersection Of Physical And Behavioral Health Care

The patient sitting in Cheryl Frommelt’s office was obviously struggling. He was lethargic, unmotivated, had difficulty concentrating and making decisions – all classic symptoms of depression.

Before making a recommendation, though, Frommelt, a licensed clinical professional counselor, asked a few more questions to get to the bottom of what may have triggered his issues, including physical symptoms.

“I asked him how he’s been sleeping,” she says. “He said, ‘I sleep like a rock. I want to sleep all the time.’ Fortunately, his wife was in that first session with us and mentioned he was snoring for the last year.”

Frommelt told the patient she suspected there was a possibility he had obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that impairs breathing while sleeping, and he should speak with his physician. It can cause many of the symptoms Frommelt’s patient had, including chronic fatigue, sleep deprivation and depression. The man followed up and, according to Frommelt, “his doctor said he had one of the worst cases of sleep apnea he’s ever run across.” After a month on the CPAP machine, a device the patient wears while sleeping, the man’s symptoms resolved.

“This case could have gone the typical route of talk therapy and antidepressants, and I would not have been doing this patient any favors,” says Frommelt, clinical director of the Fox Valley Institute, a counseling center in suburban Chicago. “I see a lot of people who are depressed, anxious, less motivated, but they aren’t really aware of how their physical health affects their mental health. We can’t go right to diagnosing a mental health issue without making sure the patient has had a physical exam, too.”

Coordination is key

This type of coordination is essential as providers across the health care spectrum recognize that mental health and physical health are inextricably linked…

Read Full Article by Jacqui Cook at Making The Healthcare System Work: