Chronic physical health issues increase the risk of mental health disorders. Mental health disorders increase the risk of chronic health conditions (https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/the-relationship-between-mental-health-mental-illness-and-chronic-physical-conditions/). The two are intrinsically linked.
Research suggests that individuals with mental health issues are at greater risk of developing preventable physical conditions (heart disease, etc.). There are a variety of reasons for this. The genes that make mental health issues more likely might also have a role to play in your physical health issues.
Many mental health disorders (and the medication to manage them) impact motivation and energy levels. When your motivation and energy are low, it can make it difficult to get out and about, thus impacting your physical health.
Another common result of mental health disorders and their medications is concentration problems. When you struggle to concentrate and plan it can be difficult to stay on top of your medical appointments which can fuel both mental and physical health problems.
The Importance of Support
Sometimes, mental health issues contribute to unhealthy behavior. Sadly, healthcare professionals may take this as an unwillingness to make positive change and don’t offer the support necessary for you to overcome the issue. For example, if you are a smoker and dealing with anxiety and depression, there’s a good chance smoking is a way you seek relief.
It’s hard to quit at the best of times, but to quit when it’s a self-soothing technique is just about impossible without support. Therefore, this lack of support to address unhealthy habits contributes to physical health issues.
There’s another issue that many people experience when trying to address physical health symptoms. When you are dealing with a diagnosed mental health issue, your healthcare professional may assume that your symptoms are related solely to your mental health issue. If you have a mental illness, you are less likely to get the routine checks on your cholesterol and blood pressure, which are great ways to detect other physical issues.
Your mind and body work together, they cannot be separated. Mental health disorders are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as digestive issues, headaches, and fatigue. That doesn’t mean these symptoms aren’t hinting at a bigger underlying health problem.
A mental health disorder doesn’t make physical health issues an inevitability. You can take steps to stay physically well. Likewise, dealing with a chronic physical illness does not mean you will develop a mental health issue.
Exercise might sound like a cliché suggestion, but if you are able to remain active, you should. It’s good for both your physical and mental health. If you are able to exercise, seek out activities you genuinely enjoy. So, if you hate jogging, you can try walking somewhere beautiful. If you despite pushups, you can try cycling.
There are plenty of in-home exercises you can try out, too. Often, the biggest reason we fail with exercise is we choose things we dislike or cost too much or are too difficult. You don’t need to make it more difficult for yourself, pick something easy and enjoyable to get started. If you want to do more later, that’s fine! Just give yourself time to work up to it.
Your diet also has sway over your mood and health. You can still enjoy sweet treats and junk food, but your focus should be on eating healthy fats, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. It’s all about striking a balance and consuming the majority of your calories by choosing the right foods. It isn’t about counting calories, restricting your diet, or withholding your favorite treats.
Diets aren’t doable long-term, it’s about building a healthy lifestyle and seeing treats for what they are – treats. In addition to ensuring you have the right vitamins and minerals, eating well can help stave off dementia and manage depression.
We already mentioned smoking, but it’s worth mentioning again. If you smoke, know that it can negatively impact both your physical and mental health. A lot of people with mental health issues who smoke believe it relieves their symptoms.
They’re not wrong, it does provide them with relief, but unfortunately, the effects are short-term. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking, it’s never too late to change your habits.
Finally, be sure to stay up to date on your routine health checks and screenings.