by Sara Giarnieri, March 12, 2021
When you think about mental health, what comes to mind?
Are you thinking of emotions, or maybe just general well-being?
Did you know that mental health plays a significant role in your physical health as well?
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are often associated with our emotional responses. Yet there are physical characteristics of mental health conditions that aren’t as readily acknowledged such as muscle tension, upset stomach, and chest pain (“Stress symptoms,” 2019).
Why do mental and physical health go hand in hand?
This is because a disruption in mental health can prevent us from maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion states (2020), “Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, affect people’s ability to participate in health-promoting behaviors.” For someone debilitated by mental health, riding a bike may not be as easy for them compared to someone who may be in a stronger state of mental health. The neglect of our health due to psychological conditions can lead to physical symptoms.
For instance, some common physical signs of depression are fatigue, changes in appetite, and headaches (“Depression,” 2018). Anxiety can also cause fatigue, rapid heart rate, and a decline in focus (“Anxiety disorders,” 2018). Anyone experiencing physical symptoms like these should recognize that it could be due to mental health, which is an aspect of our lives that is often ignored. Mental health should receive the critical attention needed in order to lessen these physical symptoms and achieve a happier, healthier life.
Those who are battling psychological conditions may also be at risk for long term physical health conditions.
Studies have shown that people who are struggling with mental health are more likely to have certain health conditions. The New Zealand Journal of Psychology studied the correlation between mental health and physical health and found that those with psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, stroke, arthritis, asthma, and chronic pain (Lockett et al., 2018). The careful treatment of our mental health can help to prevent the development of serious physical conditions.
How can we take care of our health?
Make sure you are listening to yourself both mentally and physically, as the two coincide with one another. Pay attention to how much sleep you get, provide your body with enough nutrients, and exercise daily. Set aside time to find and indulge in activities that make you feel good. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out! If you feel that you are struggling, don’t hesitate to speak to a friend, family member, counselor, or someone you trust. They are there to help you.
Think back again: What is mental health to you? Did your answer change, or did it remain the same? Either way, everyone can take more time to learn about mental health and how much it truly influences our lives.
National Mental Health Resources
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: +1 (800) 273 – 8255
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: +1 (800) 662 – HELP (4357)
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Top HelpLine Resources
Stony Brook University Mental Health Resources
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
Mental Health Outreach and Suicide Prevention
Anxiety disorders. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
Depression (major depressive disorder). (2018). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
Lockett, H., Jury, A., Tuason, C., Lai, J., & Fergusson, D. (2018). Comorbidities between mental and physical health problems: An analysis of the New Zealand Health Survey data. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 47(3), 5–11.
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2020). Mental Health and Mental Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/mental-health-and-mental-disorders
Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987