Camille McNeil
Camille McNeil
Senior Editor
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How Physical Health Affects Mental Health

While many people perceive their physical and mental health as separate, the reality is that they couldn’t be more intertwined. Not only can mental illnesses cause physical symptoms, but the experience of being physically ill can also meaningfully affect your mental health. If you want to feel your best, it’s a good idea to approach your health from a holistic perspective.

Fortunately, the conversation in the United States is starting to shift toward increased awareness of the importance of mental health and the relationship it can have with our bodies. Simone Biles brought the issue to the forefront of the national conversation after her courageous decision to withdraw from Olympic competition. Read on to learn more about how physical health affects mental health.

How can your physical health affect your mental health?

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Many people aren’t aware of the ways that mental illness can affect your physical health. Physical symptoms can manifest as an inherent part of the presentation of certain mental health problems or arise as a result of treatment. Many medications that are used to treat mental health conditions can have side effects that vary in terms of their severity, some of which may require additional treatment or lifestyle modifications. Lack of sleep and insomnia can be especially dangerous.

Mental health issues can manifest with physical symptoms, but a physical illness can also affect mental health. People with chronic health conditions, like certain types of lung disease, often find that their condition has a significant impact on their mental health. There are even certain types of dementia, like Lewy Body dementia, that can have symptoms that impact your mental health. Huntington’s disease is another example of a genetic illness that can trigger different mental health conditions.

You should try to avoid blaming yourself for any health problems that you experience. Physical and mental disorders and illnesses can be caused by a combination of complex environmental and biological factors. Don’t ever think that it’s too late: Even if you’ve been experiencing symptoms since you were an adolescent, you can improve your quality of life significantly in adulthood by taking steps to address your physical or mental health condition.

What can you do to improve your overall wellness?

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You may not know how to find a therapist, but fortunately, there are plenty of resources available both on and offline to help. You can also look for a therapist who specializes in the topics you’re hoping to discuss. There are therapists who focus on substance abuse, PTSD, mood disorders like bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorder, and there are even those who cater to specific communities, like the LGBT community.

You can also make small lifestyle changes that can have a big impact. Diet and exercise have long been connected to mental health by experts in the field. Mindfulness and meditation have also become popular with many people looking to live healthier lives. Everyone is different, and health is dependent entirely on your unique body chemistry and choices, so it’s okay if it takes a little trial and error to find a routine that works for you.

The symptoms caused by many mental illnesses can affect other aspects of your health in a variety of ways. Lack of sleep or insomnia caused by poor mental health can be particularly dangerous, given that consistent or ongoing sleep deprivation has been linked to a number of serious health conditions. Illnesses can have symptoms that manifest as mental illness, like Huntington’s disease or certain types of dementia. No matter what your medical problem is, it’s important to prioritize your health when issues arise. There are few things that are more important to invest in than your health, both mental and physical.