The relationship between mental and physical health is well established. But when mental and physical illnesses co-occur, patients’ accounts of physical illness are sometimes arbitrarily discredited or dismissed by physicians.

Research by Jeremy Coplan, MD, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and colleagues has documented a high rate of association between panic disorder and four domains of physical illness. The research could alter how physicians and psychiatrists view the boundaries within and between psychiatric and medical disorders.

“Patients who appear to have certain somatic disorders — illnesses for which there is no detectable medical cause and which physicians may consider to be imagined by the patient — may instead have a genetic propensity to develop a series of real, related illnesses,” says Dr. Coplan, an expert in neuropsychopharmacology.

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