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Hypermobility and Anxiety – What’s the Link?

Emotions (Physical and Mental)Sensory (Somatic)

What is Hypermobility?

Hypermobility is the ability to move joints beyond the normal range of motion. This can be due to a genetic condition called joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS) or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), or it can be caused by other factors such as being very flexible or having loose ligaments.

People with hypermobility may be more prone to joint injuries and dislocations. It can also lead to chronic pain and other symptoms.

It usually affects children and young people and often gets better as you get older. (Source: NHS)

Hypermobility and Anxiety

When you have a child that has hypermobility – you know some of the common symptoms, as they are evident by observing them.

It’s seen when they are playing sports, or trying to write.  You’re told by a kind doctor that – ‘it’s very common’ and ‘you just need to get them good footwear, so that they don’t twist their ankle during football’.

However, when reading through the ‘Understanding Hypermobility Disorders/syndromes in schools‘ feature on the SEDSConnective website – it makes you, as a parent and education professional, ask others questions:

  • Is there a link between a child’s hypermobility and their increasing anxiety in school?
  • Is the child tired all the time, because of their hypermobility?
  • Is the brain-fog in the classroom, a result of their hypermobility?
  • Is their school-based anxiety linked to their hypermobility?
  • Are children with hypermobility more likely to suffer from anxiety?

Research into these Questions

It turns out … the answer is YES

“People with joint hypermobility are much more likely to suffer from anxiety and enhanced ‘fight or flight’ responses.” Dr Jessica Eccles, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Brighton and Sussex Medical School

Dr Eccles was the first person to connect this knowledge to structural changes in the brain, showing that the amygdala, associated with emotional processing, is larger in people with joint hypermobility.

By clarifying the nature of this connection, she hopes to help develop more personalised and effective treatments. Dr Eccles is a psychiatrist and clinical research training fellow at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

In this short interview, Dr Jessica Eccles explains her research into the connection between joint hypermobility and anxiety.

OK – But What if the child hypermobile and neurodivergent?

It appears that Dr Eccles’ has also researched into this …

Dr Eccles’ research found that more than 50% of participants with a diagnosis of Autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or tic disorder (Tourette syndrome) demonstrated elevated levels of hypermobility, compared with just 20% of participants from the general population.

 

Next Steps

If you have watched the interview and had an ‘aha moment‘ – you, like myself – are interested in learning more.

My recommendation is to subscribe to SEDSConnective – they are they only expert by experience and voluntary led charity for symptomatic hypermobility (Ehlers-Danlos syndromes and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders) and neurodivergence (autism, dyspraxia, ADHD and Tourettes’).

SEDSConnective are passionate on finding the answers to these questions and helping children, teens, and young people receive effective early intervention health-care plans.

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