Mental and Physical Health are Connected

Mental and Physical Health are Connected

Through years of conditioning and the norms of society, it’s become an automatic human response to push “bad” feelings aside. You might be familiar with terms like “man up” or “you’ll get over it”. Phrases and thought processes like these have become etched into the minds of children and adults everywhere. As a result, we never learn how to experience and process negative feelings like sadness, anger and grief.

Unfortunately, these suppressed emotions don’t go away on their own. They may appear to be gone on the outside, but they stick around on the inside. Over time, unprocessed emotions take up our vital energy and we begin to experience physical symptoms. This is called somatization. Somatization is the mind-body connection that turns psychological stress into physical symptoms, essentially in an attempt get your attention.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness

When you have a physical illness, you know it. You may experience pain or fatigue, or both. Your body sends you signals that something isn't right. For example: if your appendix is inflamed, it's going to hurt when touched. Mental illness is similar in that it can cause physical symptoms as well as emotional ones—and sometimes those symptoms are more obvious than others.

These symptoms can be manageable on their own, but they become a bigger problem when they start to compound. Pay attention to unexplained physical discomfort and changes and keep in mind that it could be linked to your mental health. Let’s explore some of the physical signs of mental illness.

Constant Fatigue or Sleep Problems

If you always feel tired no matter how much sleep you get, it could be time to ask questions. Chronic fatigue is a common result of depression and other mental health disorders. Fatigue can arise for multiple reasons, depending on your condition.

Depression can cause you to become sedentary, which depletes energy levels, making symptoms worse. Mood swings and anxious thoughts can also turn into physical exhaustion. Ruling out lifestyle factors and other health issues can help you determine why you feel so tired.

Unexplained Joint or Muscle Pain

Pay attention to how often you clench your jaw or other parts of your body. This is often a tell-tale sign of anxiety or another mental health related issue. Anxiety can be hard on the body, causing tension and muscle aches. If you aren’t putting strenuous pressure on your joint through physical activity, it could be a sign of poor mental health.

Frequent Headaches

Headaches are common in depression. They can also be a symptom of anxiety or stress. If you have headaches that are not relieved by medication and are not caused by sinus problems, see your doctor to rule out other conditions such as migraine or high blood pressure.

If your headaches are caused by stress or anxiety, then you can take measures to reduce them. This may include relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, or getting more sleep.

Digestive Issues

You might have heard that the gut and the brain share a close connection. Just like the butterflies in your stomach on the first day of school, or the nauseous feeling you get when you hear bad news, you can also experience stomach issues from anxiety and stress. This is especially true if there’s not an obvious reason for stomach pain. Acid reflux is often linked to stress and anxiety.

Appetite Changes

Stress affects the hormones that regulate hunger. Depending on the person, it’s typical to experience a loss of appetite or constant hunger as a result of depression and anxiety.

You may even notice that you go back and forth between the two. Changes in appetite are common if you are going through a difficult time, however, it can also be a sign of depression or anxiety. If this is an ongoing issue, talk to your doctor about what’s going on with your body and mind.

Brain Fog

Do you have a hard time concentrating, forget small things, and often feel confused? It’s no wonder that problems with mental health will influence mental clarity. The stress of mental disorder can increase inflammation in the brain, affecting memory and focus. Brain fog is a common symptom of disorders like ADHD, depression, and anxiety.

Getting Help

Physical and mental health are undeniably linked. If you experience problems with one, you’re likely to experience problems with the other. The next time you experience unexplained pain, consider a mental health check-in. Your body is built to keep you safe, and it’s important to listen when it calls.

Unfortunately, stress is something that is normalized in this world, but ignoring these symptoms can make our mental health worse. Unidentified health issues can turn into a vicious cycle of suffering. Counseling can do more than help with mental health. A trained counselor can help you identify if these symptoms are a result of poor mental health and find ways to alleviate them.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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