Thursday, 28 November 2013

Depression and Anxiety Causing Vulvodynia?

                What a breakthrough this would be! Here’s my review of The Influence of Depression and Anxiety on Risk of Adult Onset Vulvodynia by Maheruh Khandker, Sonya S. Brady, Allison F. Vitonis, Richard F. MacLehose, Elizabeth G. Stewart, and Bernard L. Harlow before I say too much more…

The researchers sent out a questionnaire, they received 662 back who reported having vulvar pain (for more than 3 months) and 9922 women with no vulvar pain. Of those women with vulvar pain, 56 were diagnosed with vulvodynia. There were a total of 240 participants, the participants without vulvodynia were used as a control group.

Women were measured for Major Depressive Disorder, dysthymia (low levels of depression), general anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social phobia and agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house). The main goal was to measure whether the onset of depression/anxiety occurred in women before their vulvodynia symptoms, after the onset of symptoms, or both before and after, to see if depression/anxiety may cause vulvodynia or if vulvodynia causes the depression/anxiety.

They found that women with vulvodynia were more likely to have a history of mood or anxiety disorders and were more likely to develop them (no matter the age). 26.7% of the Women with vulvodynia in the study had a mood or anxiety disorder before the onset of vulvodynia symptoms compared to 11.3% of the women in the control group (similar time frame used). Women with vulvodynia had rates of new mood and anxiety disorders seven times greater than the women with no vulvodynia pain history.

This study shows that anxiety and depression don’t always only occur after the symptoms of vulvodynia arise. The researchers believe this study could be used as evidence to support the hypothesis that depression and anxiety could cause vulvodynia.

I don’t believe this study provides too much evidence to support that, but it still is an interesting study, and I hope to find some more studies that look into this (even though this is quite a recent study, 2011!). I have a few criticisms… firstly, the study only looked at 56 women, which the researchers can’t help, but they may have found more support for their hypothesis with more participants. The other thing is that depression and anxiety are SO COMMON now. I’m not sure that (if we looked at a way larger sample size) we would find that women with vulvodynia have more depression/anxiety before their symptoms arise compared to women who don’t develop vulvodynia. As much as I wish that were the case, because then we’d be able to possibly prevent vulvodynia from occurring just by helping women avoid depression and anxiety. But if vulvodynia WAS caused by these mood disorders, don’t you think it’d be a quick cure? Get rid of your depression or anxiety, and your pain will go away… I get depressed sometimes, but my pain is no better when I’m not depressed, and it isn’t significantly worse when I am depressed.

I must say though, I did have depression before my diagnosis, and I did develop an anxiety disorder after the diagnosis. I have conquered my anxiety, and as I said, I am rarely depressed. Yes, I get sad some days, but who doesn’t? I haven’t truly been depressed for a while now. Is my pain gone? Not yet.

I hate being a Negative Nancy, but when treatments continually fall short you start acting pretty sceptical! It never hurts to tackle your depression/anxiety though, and if you do experience one or the other (or both!) I do strongly recommend starting off by treating it (whether it be with medication or behavioural techniques or whatever else) because it does help keep your hopes up while pushing through your treatments, your pain, your relationships, etc. I am so glad I have reduced my anxiety, and it truly has made a difference for me and my diagnosis, I have more support, more confidence and self-esteem (which was something I thought vulvodynia had taken away from me).
I’m ranting now… but it feels good! That’s the main point here readers, just feel good! Make it your goal for the day :)

Here's the reference and link to the article: Khandker, M., Brady, S. S., Vitonis, A. F., MacLehose, R. F., Stewart, E. G., & Harlow, B. L. (2011). The influence of depression and anxiety on risk of adult onset vulvodynia. Journal Of Women's Health, 20(10), 1445-1451. doi:10.1089/jwh.2010.2661

1 comment:

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