Mental and physical health is fundamentally interconnected: poor physical health puts a person at risk of developing mental conditions. Likewise, mental health problems may exacerbate a person’s physical state. Yet, for treating these two types of problems, patients are referred to different specialists that rarely collaborate and amplify each other’s expertise by providing a fresh point of view. This paper discusses the links between mental health problems and poor physical health and how they manifest themselves in the affected individuals.
Today, there is evidence that some mental health conditions are linked to diseases that affect the physical body. For instance, recent studies showed that individuals who have both depression and diabetes suffer from more pronounced and severe symptoms than those who only have diabetes. Being depressed and diabetic simultaneously puts a person at a higher (85%) risk of having a heart attack. Poor heart health itself was associated with adverse conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. On top of that, Researchers from University College London, Edinburgh University, and the University of Sydney discovered that depression and anxiety were linked to a higher probability of growing cancer cells. In other words, mental illnesses largely exacerbate existing conditions or make individuals more vulnerable to developing those.
The nature of the relationship between physical and mental health has yet to be understood. However, there are already some ideas as to why poor mental health is often accompanied by physical manifestations of the disease. Individuals suffering from mental conditions are often debilitated by their symptoms. For example, depression may affect all aspects of daily life: from running errands and tackling small tasks to long-term planning and achieving life goals. Stories told by affected individuals often depict the difficulty of doing something that would require an insignificantly little effort from a healthy person – for instance, going to bed at a reasonable hour or maintaining personal hygiene. It is readily imaginable how the low levels of energy and overall negative outlook on life can prevent a person from adopting healthy habits and finding time for routine checks. This is especially true for lifestyle choices that imply commitment such as regular exercise and dieting.
When it comes to investigating the poor physical health of mental health patients, the socioeconomic dimension of the question should not be ignored. Mental illness often accompanies adverse childhood and adolescence experiences that an individual is more likely to have if they grow up in an underprivileged community. Once an illness develops, an affected person cannot always access medical services due to being financially strained, which traps them in their situation. It is not uncommon for underprivileged people to use substances as a relief and emotional outlet for psychological suffering.
Indeed, there is a complex relationship between the human psyche and the human body that has been gaining traction in the medical community in the last few decades. Today, it has been found that poor mental health puts a person at risk of developing some physical illnesses or aggravates the symptoms of existing conditions. The link between the mind and the body is still being investigated. Mental illness may prevent individuals from being proactive about their health. Aside from that, access to health services is not always available to people who struggle financially.