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Mental Health and Physical Health: What's the Connection?

Read on to explore the intricate connection between mental health and physical health to understand how they influence each other.

mental health and physical health

Article Contents

The Relationship Between Mental Health and Physical Health

The relationship between mental health and physical health is complex and deeply intertwined. This interconnection is known as the mind-body connection. It highlights how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can impact our physical health and vice versa.

Unpacking this relationship is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of overall well-being. Here are some things to consider regarding the connection between mental health and physical health:

Impact of Mental Health on Physical Health

Mental health disorders and symptoms can lead to a range of physical health problems. For example, depression has been linked with a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. 

Anxiety disorders can lead to physical symptoms like heart palpitations and gastrointestinal issues.

Furthermore, people with mental health conditions may have difficulty managing their physical health due to their symptoms. This can further worsen their mental health disorder as well while potentially exacerbating physical health ailments at the same time.1

Impact of Physical Health on Mental Health

Conversely, chronic physical health conditions can significantly impact mental health. For instance, people living with chronic conditions like cancer or diabetes are more likely to experience mental health problems. This includes mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. 

Even less severe physical health issues, like prolonged periods of poor sleep, can lead to or worsen mental health issues. The stress and emotional strain of dealing with a chronic illness can also lead to mental health problems.

Shared Risk Factors

Certain risk factors are shared between mental health and physical health disorders. 

For example, high levels of stress or trauma can contribute to mental health problems like depression and anxiety. It can also contribute to physical health problems such as heart disease. 

Additionally, lifestyle choices such as substance use, poor diet, and physical inactivity can lead to both mental health and physical health problems.

Biological Links

There are also biological links between mental health and physical health. For example, changes in brain chemistry due to mental health disorders can affect physical health. 

Similarly, physical illnesses that affect the brain or the body’s ability to produce hormones can impact mental health.

Treatment Interactions

The treatment of mental health disorders can have implications for physical health, and vice versa. Some medications used to treat mental health disorders can have physical side effects. Also, physical health treatments can sometimes have mental health side effects.

This often depends on the individual’s previous symptoms and potential severity of their current physical or mental health disorder. The strain of dealing with a mental health disorder can make it more difficult for people to adhere to treatments for physical health problems.

How Can Interactions Affect Treatment?

Understanding the intricate relationship between mental health and physical health is critical for healthcare providers. 

This understanding can guide more holistic approaches to care. This refers to care that considers a person’s overall well-being rather than focusing on isolated aspects. 

By paying attention to both mental health and physical health, people can better manage their well-being. Also, health professionals can provide more comprehensive and effective treatments.

A Deeper Dive: Common Co-Occurring Mental Health and Physical Health Symptoms or Disorders

As stated, the interplay between mental health and physical health conditions often manifests in specific associations between certain mental and physical health disorders. This intersection is critical to understanding the full scope of a patient’s health.

It is also important in designing comprehensive treatment plans. There are multiple types of physical conditions that can co-occur alongside mental health disorders. However, there are some that are more common than others. This is imperative to understand in order to receive holistic treatment.

Some examples of mental health conditions closely associated with certain physical health include:

Depression and Heart Disease

Depression is often associated with heart disease. People diagnosed with heart disease have a significantly higher risk of experiencing depression. Conversely, those with depression have a higher risk of developing heart disease.

The relationship between these two conditions can be attributed to shared risk factors. This includes factors like a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and poor diet. Additionally, depression can make it difficult for people to maintain healthy behaviors necessary for heart health.2

Anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Anxiety disorders often co-occur with IBS. IBS is a chronic condition characterized by abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits. 

Stress and anxiety can exacerbate IBS symptoms. Also, the discomfort and unpredictability of IBS can, in turn, increase anxiety levels.

Anxiety has been shown to manifest through several other physical symptoms as well, such as nausea, headaches, and sweating.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Chronic Pain

People with PTSD, a condition that can occur following exposure to traumatic events, often report chronic pain. 

The sustained stress that those with PTSD often experience can contribute to heightened pain perception. This can result in chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia or migraines.

Schizophrenia and Physical Health Comorbidities

People with schizophrenia often have a range of physical health conditions. Examples include heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory diseases.3 

The side effects of antipsychotic medications and lifestyle factors may also contribute to these health issues. 

Eating Disorders and Nutritional Deficiencies

Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, can have severe physical health implications. 

They can lead to nutritional deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances. They can also cause heart problems and create other mental health symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder and Thyroid Disease

Studies have found a link between bipolar disorder and thyroid disease. Thyroid diseases, like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, can affect mood and energy levels. Thus leading to symptoms similar to bipolar disorder.4

Substance Use Disorders and Hepatitis C

Substance use disorders, particularly those involving intravenous drug use, have a strong association with the transmission of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C.

The Impact of Physical Activity and Exercise on Mental Health and Physical Health

Mental health and physical health is profoundly affected by physical activity and exercise. Regular physical activity has been proven to improve both mental health and physical health in numerous ways.
Physical activity on some level is often considered one of the most accessible, cost-effective, and comprehensive methods to maintain and enhance overall wellness. Let’s delve into how physical activity impacts mental health and physical health:

Improvement in Mood and Reduction in Depression and Anxiety

Exercise releases chemicals in your brain, such as endorphins and serotonin, that help to improve your mood. 

Individuals who consistently engage in regular physical activity often have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to those who are less active.

Enhanced Cognitive Function

Regular physical activity can improve cognitive function across all age groups. It has been associated with improved attention, memory, and processing speed. 

Moreover, physical activity is linked to a decreased risk of cognitive decline. It is also linked to a decreased risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. This can help with not only short-term health issues, but also ensure health in the long term as well.

Stress Relief

Physical activity is a natural way to relieve stress. Exercise can provide a distraction and help you gain confidence. 

It can provide social interaction and enable you to cope in a healthy way, thereby reducing feelings of stress.

Improvement in Sleep

Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, can contribute to better sleep quality and duration. 

Good sleep is crucial for various mental health aspects. Examples include mood regulation, cognitive function, and overall mental well-being.

Self-Esteem Boost

Regular physical activity can boost self-esteem and body image. This occurs as physical accomplishments, strength, and endurance build over time.

Physical Health Benefits

The benefits of exercise extend far beyond mental health. Regular physical activity can help manage weight and improve heart health. 

It can also increase energy levels, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. 

A Healthy Coping Strategy

For people who struggle with mental health issues, physical activity can serve as a healthy coping strategy. This helps to reduce the potential reliance on unhelpful or harmful coping mechanisms, such as alcohol or substance use.

Social Interaction

Joining a gym, attending a fitness class, or being part of a sports team offers opportunities for social interaction. 

This also helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. It provides a sense of belonging and fosters community, both of which are crucial for mental well-being.

Mindfulness and Focus

This includes certain types of physical activity, like yoga or tai chi. These can help cultivate mindfulness and improve mental well-being. 

This is done by bringing attention to the present moment and breaking cycles of negative thinking.

Strategies To Promote Mental Health and Physical Health

Taking care of your mental health and physical health are crucial components of overall well-being. Many strategies can promote both simultaneously. Depending on your symptoms, some strategies may work better for your lifestyle.

Here are some approaches to nurturing your mental health and physical health:5

Regular Physical Activity

Engaging in regular exercise is a key strategy for promoting mental health and physical health. Exercise releases endorphins that improve mood and reduce stress. It also helps maintain physical fitness and aids in overall heart health. 

Compared to common perception, however, partaking in physical activity doesn’t have to be vigorous. Even light activities, such as walking or gardening, can have significant benefits.

Balanced Diet

This involves eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. It can significantly contribute to mental health and physical health. Certain nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins, have been associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety.

Additionally, this includes staying hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can help improve mood and cognitive function, as dehydration can lead to feelings of fatigue and irritability. Drinking enough water can improve mental well-being and overall cognitive clarity.

Further, drinking enough water can help support digestion, flush out toxins in the body, lubricate joints and tissues, support cardiovascular health, skin health, and more.

Adequate Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for both mental health and physical health. Lack of sleep can affect mood, energy level, and ability to handle stress. It’s linked to physical health issues like a weakened immune system. 

Social Connections

Maintaining strong social connections can greatly benefit mental health by providing support. It can also help in reducing feelings of loneliness or isolation. 

Furthermore, social activity can often involve physical activity, further promoting physical health.

Regular Check-Ups

Regular medical check-ups are important to monitor physical health. They help to detect potential health issues early. 

They also provide an opportunity to discuss mental health concerns. This is because many physical health conditions can impact mental health.

Limit Alcohol and Avoid Illicit Substances

Excessive alcohol and substance use disorder can lead to a range of mental health and physical health problems. Examples include depression and anxiety, liver disease, and cardiovascular issues.

Mental Health Support

Seeking help from a mental health professional when needed can prevent mental health problems from worsening and potentially affecting physical health. This can include therapy, medication, or other treatments.

Implementing these practices into a daily routine can create a balanced lifestyle. That is, a lifestyle that supports overall wellness. Everyone is unique, so it’s important to find the combination of techniques that work best for you and align with your lifestyle and personal goals. 

As always, any major lifestyle changes should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

mental health and physical health

How Can Iris Healing Help?

Maintaining mental health and physical health might seem challenging or even impossible on some days. However, with the right help, you’ll be able to easily keep yourself in the best states of mental health and physical health.
At Iris Healing, we offer holistic treatment plans that are geared toward helping our clients achieve optimum mental health and physical health.
Our holistic approach incorporates treatments like yoga and nutritional therapy with traditional approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy. This ensures that you get the care and support you need.

How Can We Help?

At Iris Healing, you’ll get the emotional, spiritual, and physical care you need to take control of your addiction and start leading the life you want today. 

We will work with you every step of the way to make sure that your plan is personalized to your needs and symptoms.

Get in touch with us today, and let’s help you get started!

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