Daniel Clauw, MD: Chronic Illness and Mental Health


Daniel Clauw, MD, of the University of Michigan, discusses how the diagnosis of a rheumatic condition can impact the mental health of patients.

With any chronic condition, monitoring and maintaining mental health of a patient becomes essential to ensuring a high quality of life.

Rheumatic diseases are no different.

When receiving a diagnosis of a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis, it is not uncommon for patients to experience a gambit of emotions. Few clinicians have as great of an understanding of the psychiatric state of patients suffering from rheumatic diseases as Daniel Clauw, MD, professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of Michigan.

For Clauw, understanding the mental state of patients during what can be a difficult time in their lives is not only beneficial but necessary if clinicians desire to provide the best care possible. To dive deeper into the topic, MD Magazine® caught up with Clauw between sessions at the 2019 American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in Atlanta, GA.

MD Mag: How does the diagnosis of a rheumatic condition impact the mental health of patients?

Clauw: That's a great question. I don't know that that's been formally studied, but in general any one that has a chronic illness has higher rates of a number of different sort of mental health problems. Anxiety, depression will always be higher in any group of people with any chronic illness because it's taxing to have to deal with all the issues that are associated with having a chronic illness.

So I think that we see that in a lot of individuals that develop these comorbidities, psychological, or psychiatric problems. They're often not attended to because the primary person that's managing the autoimmune disease is really focused on the autoimmunity or the inflammation. So, a lot of our patients have these comorbidities. It's very worthwhile to be asking people about the you know whether they have these problems or not and whether you feel comfortable treating them yourself or whether you refer. These individuals will do a lot better if any number of mental health conditions are identified and treated.

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