How are Mental and Physical Health Connected?
From Brooke Hartman, LCSW:
There are no ways in which physical and mental health are not related! I believe the whole person is both mind and body, the health of each affecting the health of the other. People with poor mental/emotional health are more at risk for chronic physical problems, and people with chronic physical conditions are more at risk for poor mental/emotional health- at any age.
WHO also states in its constitution, “There is no health without mental health.” Mental health is a component of physical health.
In my opinion, it is frequently difficult to separate physical and mental health since what happens in the body affects our minds and hearts and vice versa. Many psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety, also involve difficulties with sleep, touch, digestion, appetite and arousal. Physical illness and pain often contribute to emotional distress. And emotional distress can lead to a variety of physical symptoms. This is particularly true in the area of trauma. Bessel van der Kolk, MD, a psychiatrist known for his research on post-traumatic stress, famously stated that “the body keeps the score”. This means that our bodies are the repository of what we experience in our lives. For example, trauma (any experience — physical or emotional — that overwhelms our system), produces actual physiological changes including a recalibration of the brain’s alarm system, an increase in stress hormone activity and changes in the ways our bodies and minds filter information. After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system. In the aftermath of trauma, our attempts to maintain control of physical and emotional reactions can result in a whole range of physical symptoms, including digestive distress, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, etc.
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