When you don’t feel well physically, that can affect your mental well-being; when you’re not mentally healthy, you won’t feel your best. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there’s a connection between physical and mental health. The WHO defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In other words, if a person isn’t mentally healthy, they’re not physically healthy. The connection between physical mental health underscores the importance of addressing both aspects for overall well-being.
When an individual experiences stress due to overwhelming pressure or life events, it’s common to feel physical health symptoms like headaches or body aches. Stress can also leave a person feeling physically exhausted and raise blood pressure. A vicious cycle of chronic stress can affect both the body and mind. As a result, a person may experience physical ailments, anxiety and depression. Specific physical illnesses can interfere with well-being, causing a person to feel helpless and pessimistic about their future.
The Mind-Body – Connection Between Physical Mental Health
Understanding the connection between mental and physical health is essential, commonly called the mind-body connection. For example, being anxious or nervous can wreak havoc on gut health, making it difficult to eat, and can contribute to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
The fight-or-flight response is another example of how the mind-body connection works. When people feel threatened, it’s common to experience a stress response that triggers the need to fight or run. The fight-or-flight response is a natural tool to protect us from danger.
If a person taking a stroll through a wooded area sees a bear in the distance, they decide to leave and avoid the possibility of an attack. This response is an example of flight. Due to the mental stress of seeing a bear, they might experience physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, heavy breathing and sweaty palms. However, once they get to safety, they calm down, they breathe normally, and their heart rate decreases. Later they may recall the event without the terror they felt and may even laugh about it.
Individuals who feel they’re constantly in a fight-or-flight state often experience such events that can leave them feeling mentally and physically ill. They may suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome linked to adverse childhood experiences. They may experience fear, nervousness and extreme stress at the thought of a past traumatic event.
Ways Mental Health Impacts Physical Health
How does mental health affect physical health? Being healthy can help individuals avoid poor physical health conditions. Research shows that people experiencing poor mental health are prone to preventable chronic health conditions like heart disease. One of the factors contributing to poor physical health is not having the energy or motivation for self-care. Someone feeling overwhelmed due to a mental health disorder may find that surviving each day is their primary goal, so they may not pursue health care until they experience unbearable pain.
Lack of Self-Care
When an individual experiences anxiety or depression, it can be hard to concentrate on self-care. They may stop taking medication for a physical condition and miss medical appointments. When healthcare providers know a person is struggling with mental health, they may assume the individual won’t follow treatment recommendations, leading to less encouragement and support for making changes. Sometimes the individual may refuse treatment or not follow through with recommendations.
A person with a mental disorder who’s had an adverse healthcare experience may be unlikely to seek care out of fear. Not getting the recommended preventive screenings can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer, for example. A lack of dental care can impact the ability to consume healthy foods and lead to gum disease, which can affect cardiovascular health.
Failing to eat healthy can cause illness, especially when the body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. Anxiety and depression can lead to appetite loss. Individuals without adequate financial resources may turn to low-cost processed foods high in fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar. These foods can lead to a high risk of conditions associated with poor eating habits, including certain cancers, heart disease and stroke.
It’s common for individuals with severe mental health conditions like schizophrenia to smoke heavily. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people diagnosed with mental disorders are more likely to smoke than those without psychological stress, with rates highest in young adults.
Health experts indicate that nicotine may temporarily reduce stress and improve mood. However, smoking is an unhealthy habit, and tobacco use increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and other health issues. Quitting smoking can be difficult, as smokers with mental health disorders are susceptible to stress that can lead to relapse.
How Physical Health Impacts Mental Health
Individuals who experience debilitating physical health issues, like cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and skin conditions like psoriasis, may experience depression and sadness after diagnosis. Dealing with these issues can lead to a person developing poor mental health. Grieving the loss of independence, physical limitations, uncertainty about the future and managing chronic pain can lead to depression that impacts the desire to engage with family and friends. Job loss associated with a chronic health condition and financial burdens can also weigh heavily on a chronically ill person and their family. The individual may feel hopeless, helpless, tired, or have insomnia or suicidal thoughts.
Extreme or chronic physical pain can cause an individual to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, leading to addiction. Since misusing these substances can cause changes in the brain, abusing them can contribute to anxiety and depression, especially when a person experiences the highs and lows of addiction. When prescription medications fail to dull the pain or a health care provider refuses to prescribe more due to the likelihood of addiction, a person with chronic pain may seek deadly alternatives like fentanyl. As a result, they may start a downward spiral into addiction.
Ways You Can Promote Mental and Physical Health in Your Daily Routine
Physical and mental wellness go hand-in-hand. Even if you’re physically healthy without a diagnosed mental disorder, you must be proactive in caring for your mental and physical health. If you’re experiencing chronic physical conditions, it’s essential to develop healthy habits that are protective factors that promote good mental and physical health.
Stay Closely Connected to Others
Staying connected to people around you means you can find support when you need it. Loved ones usually sense when something is off. For example, you may not notice a sudden weight loss if you feel no physical symptoms, but someone close to you may observe the change immediately. Isolating yourself during tough times can interfere with getting the help you need.
Get Enough Sleep
Not sleeping can worsen mental and physical health problems. Sleep not only provides rest but also helps your body heal and repair. Research suggests that a good night’s sleep contributes to a healthy weight. Most adults benefit from at least 7 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Getting enough sleep can help you feel better and more able to concentrate.
Exercise can promote a good mental state by calming anxiety and clearing your mind. Walking and practicing yoga are two ways to add physical activity to your daily routine. Exercise helps burn fat and calories, which contributes to a healthy weight. Getting adequate physical activity boosts energy levels, helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart attack.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Improve your diet by replacing high-fat and sugary foods with healthy, nutrient-dense foods like lean protein, vegetables and fruit, which can boost the immune system and improve overall health. Get daily hydration from water and foods that contain water, like melons and green salads. Relax and have fun. Sometimes it isn’t easy to take a break to do something you enjoy, but reading a good book or attending a fun event can be what you need to take you away from the daily grind and give you a happier and healthier outlook.
Seek Mental Health Treatment
Dealing with mental illness can leave you physically drained. Treatment options include residential treatment, partial hospitalization program PHP, and intensive outpatient treatment programs that can include the guidance of a narrative therapist. With the help of a mental health professional, you’ll learn strategies to improve your overall health.
Camelback Recovery Can Help You Improve Physical and Mental Health With Treatment
Mental health and physical health conditions are related. If you’re going through a tough time where your psychological or physical health impacts your well-being, there’s help for you. At Camelback Recovery, the best mental health and addiction treatment center, we can help you sort through the issues and improve your mental health outcomes.
If you have a chronic health issue that affects your mental state, keeps you from doing things you used to enjoy or causes you to feel depressed, we can help. We offer mental health treatment programs, including intensive outpatient treatment, to help you achieve better emotional and physical well-being. Call us at 602-466-9880 to learn more.