How Mental Health Affects Physical Health

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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About one-third of people with a physical health condition also suffer from some form of mental issue. This isn’t just some random statistic. Your mental health affects your physical health, and vice versa. The proof is in the pudding… literally.

If you consume nothing but chocolate pudding for an entire day, chances are you’d feel quite ill. While this is just a silly example, the point it drives home is important. If you’re depressed and anxious, especially for an extended period, there’s a good chance your physical health will be negatively affected.

You may be surprised just how interconnected the body and mind really are. Let’s explore some proof of this, as well as discuss some ways to help yourself achieve a positive body and mind. (If you need immediate assistance with a matter pertaining to physical or mental health, call us now.)

Mental Health & Physical Health

Before we explore some specific ways mental and physical health are related, it’s important to note some factors that play into them being related:

  • Some people inherit genes that make them more susceptible to mental and/or physical illnesses.
  • Those who live a sedentary or overall unhealthy lifestyle place themselves at higher risk than average for developing mental and/or physical conditions.
  • Lack of motivation. Some people with pre-existing mental or physical conditions may find it rather difficult to find the motivation to change.
  • Lack of resources. Many people seeking help for mental or physical issues struggle to find resources available and/or affordable to them.

Of course, there are countless other ways that can affect how much mental and physical health are interconnected. However, these four are major players in the game, especially genetics and lifestyle. The good news is that they’re all factors that we have power over, even our genetics to a degree. Skip to the section below titled “How to Help Yourself” to read more.

4 Ways the Mind Affects the Body

Now for the specific. The following four physical areas of life are (among others) directly affected by your mentality. Please note: These are specific and common examples. The overall feeling of “blah” that comes with mental and/or physical conditions, words cannot explain. But there is always hope and there is always help. Call Defining Wellness today to connect with a professional. Here are some specific ways mental health affects physical health:

  • Sleep & Energy Levels. Mental conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, personality disorder, PTSD, etc. take a serious toll on the body. The combination of fatigue and stress from the condition can cause lack of sleep, which in turn can worsen the mental condition. In severe cases, this vicious cycle can lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
  • Digestive Health. Mental conditions have been proven to physically affect the digestive tract. Pain and/or discomfort in the stomach can result from mental stress/illness, and if stomach pain is already a symptom of someone with a mental disorder, the pain can worsen. Consider this. If we feel “butterflies” in our guts when we’re nervous or excited, imagine the gut feelings that come with anxiety or depression. If you’ve been there, or are there, then you already know.
  • Cardiac Health. They say stress causes a heavy heart. Unfortunately, there’s science to back this. Heart-related factors associated with mental illness include but are not limited to high blood pressure, increased heart rate, palpitations, calcium build-up, and even heart attacks in some cases. The body releases hormones when stressed or under duress, and the heart feels it. Over time, the cardiac impact from mental disease can lead to heart disease.
  • Consider all the aforementioned ways mental and physical health are related. It should come as no surprise then that poor mental health can actually take years off your life. Because mental health affects all systems of the body, including the immune system, one’s lifespan can actually be reduced if left untreated.

How to Help Yourself

Not to plug our own business, but please know that the mission of Defining Wellness Centers is to help people achieve happy and healthy lives. If you or someone you know struggles with mental and/or physical conditions and needs assistance, please reach out to us today.

So. You may be wondering how someone with mental and/or physical conditions can “fight back” so to speak and prevent further damage. Here are some ways you can improve both your mental and physical wellbeing. And remember, while some of the following methods of improvement may seem explicitly mental and others explicitly physical, the body and the mind are forever interconnected.

  • This really isn’t a secret. Exercise improves both body and mind perhaps more than any other method. Aside from obviously being physically healthy, exercise also releases endorphins in the brain that literally make us feel high. (Talk about a healthy replacement…) The age-old tradition of exercise improving body and mind is tried and true.
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet. Second only to exercise, eating well improves mental and physical health like no other. Again, aside from the obvious physical benefits, a healthy diet will make you feel better about yourself. Remember how good it felt to say no to those chips the other day? Blow that up on a large scale and you’ll realize how linked diet and happiness really are.
  • Improve your Lifestyle. If you smoke, drink, abuse drugs, don’t workout, eat poorly, sleep poorly, and live a sedentary lifestyle, you’re literally asking for trouble. We mentioned diet and exercise, but something as simple as focusing more on your employment can be a lifestyle improvement. Read a book. Find a new hobby. Take a drive and get lost on purpose, provided you have GPS of course, hehe. Improving your lifestyle will improve your health, both mental and physical.
  • Seek help. In this life, there is no reason to ever fight alone. If you have a support system already, e.g. friends or family or caring co-workers, utilize that support! There is no shame – only strength – in reaching out for help. Defining Wellness Centers exist for this very purpose. Call us today and discover the vast network of resources available at your fingertips.

Why should you help yourself? Because you’re worth it. Also because, as cold as it sounds, it’s likely nobody else will. Only when we cry for help can anyone know that we need it. Don’t wait around for life to pick you up. Pick life up yourself. Call us if you need an extra hand.

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If you are ready to take the step towards a new life, call Defining Wellness today and learn more about how we can help you.