According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (2003), mental health conditions may negatively affect our physical health. For example, anxiety and stress are often associated with severe headaches, stomach ulcers, and hypertension.
Mental health and physical health are fundamentally linked. People living with a mental illness are at greater risk of experiencing a wide range of physical health problems. The reverse relationship is also true: people living with chronic physical health conditions experience depression and anxiety at twice the rate of the general population.
It is important to know why mental and physical health correlates with each other. This is because both mind and body are affected by biological and emotional changes, as well as by psychosocial and environmental factors. Mental illnesses can alter hormonal balances, sleep cycles, and immune system function, while many psychiatric medications have side-effects ranging from weight gain to irregular heart rhythms. These symptoms create an increased vulnerability to a range of physical health problems. Similarly, poor physical health may cause high blood sugar levels and disrupt the circulation of blood, which can impact brain function.Furthermore, mental and physical illnesses share many symptoms, such as food cravings and decreased energy levels, which can increase food consumption, decrease physical activity and contribute to weight gain. These factors increase the risk of developing chronic physical conditions and can have a detrimental impact upon mental well-being. Furthermore, people living with chronic physical conditions often experience emotional stress and chronic pain, which are both associated with the development of depression and anxiety. Experiences with disability can also cause distress and isolate people from social supports.
Taking the example of somebody suffering from diabetes we know that both depression and schizophrenia are risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes due to their impact on the body’s resistance to insulin. People with mental illnesses also experience many of the other risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity and high cholesterol levels. Conversely, people with diabetes have nearly twice the rate of diagnosed mental illnesses as those without diabetes. People living with diabetes often experience significant emotional stress, while brain function can be altered through high blood sugar levels. If left untreated, co-existing diabetes, poor mental health and mental illnesses can hinder self-care practices and increase blood sugar levels, contributing to worsening mental and physical health.
The connection between physical and mental illness has been proven by various researches. Arecent research completed by the University Of Washington (2003), shows that patients with chronic physical illness have a high prevalence of major depressive illness. Also unraveled, patients with cancer, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease may experience intensified feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.
Proven that this connection exists, living a healthy lifestyle can have a positive impact on both mental and physical health. Therefore, making healthy choices such as being physically active, eating healthy foods, not smoking, going for annual medical examinations, and developing appropriate coping strategies may prevent many physical and mental health conditions. Truth is, good mental health promotes a healthy body which should eventually provide some peace of mind!