In Stress and Health

Are the Physical Health and Mental Health Connected?

Ancient Greeks believed that balance can be achieved when you have a sound mind and a sound body. Many years of research in Western science showed that they were right. We are one integrated organism, rather than a random collection of independent parts. What affects the body affects the mind.

Sometimes a physical condition might be the cause or a contributing factor to the mental distress. There is no doubt that apparent mental health symptoms can have a physiological basis. Researchers estimate that about 10% of people who go to outpatient therapists with psychiatric symptoms have an undiagnosed or under-treated medical condition. The number of 10% might sound as not high and there is nothing to concern about. However, a person who is suffering from undiagnosed thyroid condition or a brain tumour is not responding to psychotherapy, making thus his or her condition may get worse.

In this case, it becomes critical broaden our thinking from psychological theories to consideration of the fact that sometimes an issue is not “all in your head”. Sometimes the mind is responding to something that has its start in the body. Here are some common examples, that give you an idea of impact of medical issues on mental health:

Anxiety could be caused by anemia, cardiac arrhythmia, constipation, mitral stenosis, myasthenia gravis, ovarian cancer, pheochromocytoma (a tumor that secretes epinephrine) may cause panic attacks, pulmonary edema, and thyroid problems.

Depression could be caused by anemia, brain tumor, constipation, electrolyte imbalance, malnutrition, seizure disorder, thyroid problems, TIAs (mini strokes), urinary tract infections, and vitamin deficiency.

Delusions could be caused by cerebral tumor, congestive heart failure, electrolyte imbalance, hyperthyroidism, lupus, and vitamin deficiency.

Dr. Ronald Diamond emphasizes, the following factors might make an individual have undiagnosed medical conditions: no previous psychiatric history in an individual over 40 y.o., no history of similar symptoms, coexistence of chronic disease, a history of head injury, a change in headache pattern, and administration of antipsychotic or anxiolytic medications (http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/psychiatric-presentations-of-medical-illness/ ). This list is not intended to be all-inclusive either, but only to sensitize you to issues that we should always consider during intake.


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