The Connection Between Mental and Physical Health Issues

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BY|Jolene Conway View Bio|27th May 2019

It’s no surprise that our mental health and physical health are connected.  It could be assumed that any type of health issue can affect other aspects of your well-being.  However, current research suggests that our mental and physical health are so closely linked that they even tend to fluctuate in harmony.  

So, does this mean if we do something to improve our physical health, it will influence our mental health? Or vice-versa? The quick answer is, yes.  On the contrary, if something negatively impacts your physical or mental health, it is almost guaranteed to affect the other. Having two simultaneous chronic conditions, whether they be mental, physical, or one of each, is referred to as comorbidity.  That makes this whole situation seem pretty scary, so let's talk about it.

Some of the connection between mental and physical health can come as a consequence of medications or treatment.  Often times medication used to address mental health issues can have physical side effects, and many medications that deal with physical health issues can have mental side effects.  In fact, the Canadian Mental Health Association states, “Mental illnesses can alter hormonal balances and sleep cycles, while many psychiatric medications have side-effects ranging from weight gain to irregular heart rhythms.”[1]  This catch-22 created by medicine is something that contributes to the parallels between these two aspects of overall health, and is definitely something that people should be taking into consideration and talking to their doctors about.

Another way a connection between mental and physical health can become established is through overlapping symptoms.  There are many physical and mental conditions that have similar symptoms such as food cravings, or decreased energy levels.  These are symptoms that we commonly see in mental health conditions like depression, but can also be symptoms of issues like cardiovascular disease as well.  This is just one example of how symptoms can be a result of both physical and mental health issues. In fact, this trend is so prominent that research shows specific physical conditions are more likely to have comorbid mental health conditions, and vice versa.  Some of these co-existing conditions include:

Diabetes:  The development of type 2 diabetes is closely linked with depression and schizophrenia because these mental health issues impact the body’s resistance to insulin.[1]

Chronic Respiratory Diseases:  People with diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, and asthma, are much more likely to develop anxiety and depression.[1]

Psoriasis:  Individuals with anxiety or stress disorders can be more likely to develop and have psoriasis flare ups.[2]  Additionally, those who have psoriasis are more susceptible to depression.[3]

These are just a couple ways that physical and mental health issues have visibly co-existed.  While the connection is clearly established, this does not mean that if you have one of the conditions above, you are going to experience a physical or mental co-existing condition.  You can have some control over these comorbid conditions by taking care of yourself and being conscious of the daily habits you should be practicing in order to live a healthy lifestyle.

If you are someone who has a mental or physical condition, it is important to acknowledge your mind-body connection, and pay close attention to your mental and physical health.  To ensure you’re doing the most you can for your health, make sure you’re participating in activities like exercise, healthy eating, work and play balance, and seeing the right doctor and therapist regularly.

 

[1] https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/the-relationship-between-mental-health-mental-illness-and-chronic-physical-conditions/

[2] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/physical-health-and-mental-health

[3] http://time.com/4679492/depression-anxiety-chronic-disease/