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Dr. Anthony’s Blog

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Can your Mental Health affect your Physical Health?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “ a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. So, does the way you feel emotionally have an affect on your physical health? It certainly does!

When you feel good about yourself, you are more likely to take good care of your physical self, but you are not happy with your physical being, possibly due to excessive stress, anxiety or depression (feeling blue mentally), not only does your body machinery malfunction but also your behavior changes for the worse.

The mind/body connection is strong and if one is out of balance it adversely affects the other. Stress, anxiety and anger can all lead to physical ailments. The reverse is also true: physical problems such as heart disease, diabetes and chronic pain can make you depressed. There are many stresses in life - the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job or moving to a new place, can all take a toll on our physical health. It is important to try to keep things in check or ask for help, so that the initial stressful condition doesn’t escalate into a serious physical illness.

The effects of mental illness on physical health can be serious. The journal of World Psychiatry reported in its February 2011 issue that the lifespan of people with severe mental illness is shorter by 13-30 years, compared to the general population. This excess mortality is mainly due to physical illness. Mental health illness can lead to substance abuse, risky sexual behavior and neglect of your essential body needs, eventually hurting you physically as well as mentally.

On the brighter side, a positive perception of our physical health positively can be a mood booster. When we are happy with life it is easier to hit the gym, make good choices about our health and stay “the course”. reports  “…people who have good emotional health are aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They have learned healthy ways to cope with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life. They feel good about themselves.” Also, increased levels of physical activity are positively associated with general well being, lower levels of anxiety and depression, and a positive mood.

Looking good and feeling well go hand in hand. With all life’s stressors we need to work on a daily basis to keep ourselves both mentally/emotionally sane and physically healthy. And while we all have bad days and may get down in the dumps from time to time, we need to be reminded that, poor mental health can lead to a serious physical condition. In case we feel down for longer than a few weeks, it may be worth talking to your health care provider.

So as the song says “don’t worry, be happy”-well, as much as you possibly can!   If not, ask for help.  

To your health!

Dr. Anthony