6 Reasons Why Mental Health Is as Important as Physical Health

The well-being of your mind and body is interlinked. (Image via Pexels/Marcus Aurelius)
The well-being of your mind and body is interlinked. (Image via Pexels/Marcus Aurelius)

There is no doubt that mental health should be considered an important component of our happiness and well-being. Science has also revealed that if we are not in a healthy state of mind, we are likely to have more physical problems. Yet, many are not aware of this fact.

Most people erroneously believe that being mentally healthy means not suffering any overt disorders. In reality, however, mental health is a continuum comprising psychological and emotional elements. Individuals who are resilient and can cope with life's uncertainties are at one end of the spectrum while there are others with substantial impairments in routine functioning at the other end. People who fall in the middle of the spectrum would probably say that their mental health is "fine."

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The Link Between Mental Health and Physical Health

The connection between your body and mind is much more complex and deeper than you think. Read on to find out more about some of the most effective ways to understand the mind–body connection.

1. Mental State Changes the Body's Physiology

Various body functions are carried out on cue from chemical signals. The nervous system triggers responses through multiple pathways. The interconnectedness means that emotional behavior is governed by the physiological condition and the body's response is in turn guided by the mental state. For example, if you're hungry, then you become irritable and conversely, if you are stressed out or anxious, your blood pressure starts to rise.

Another pathway is the neuroendocrine pathway by which the body sends out signals by secreting different hormones. The amount and timing of secretion cause bodily changes that lead to either reduction or increase of mental conditions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Chronic hypothyroidism leads to weight gain that could cause depression and lack of motivation.

A healthy mind leads to a healthy body and vice versa. (Image via Unsplash/Peter Conlan)
A healthy mind leads to a healthy body and vice versa. (Image via Unsplash/Peter Conlan)

2. Immune System and Depression

When the T cell response to viruses and bacteria is suppressed, the immune system is affected, making it easier to fall sick. An increase in the severity of allergies and asthma may also result from a compromised immune system. Taking it further, the immune system might potentially be at the root of depression. Frequent bouts of illness and loss of productivity might cause stress. In chronic stress, the brain seeks to mount an immunological response. This inflammatory response could be what makes depression so prevalent. Thus, depression, is more than just poor motivation and attitude.

Physical exercises such as yoga can enhance both mental and physical health. (Image via Pexels/Gustavo Fring)
Physical exercises such as yoga can enhance both mental and physical health. (Image via Pexels/Gustavo Fring)

3. Overlapping Conditions

Similar symptoms are present in a variety of physical and behavioral disorders; consider dietary changes, a drop in energy, or even bodily aches and pains. Comorbidity is the term for having two overlapping disorders (or diseases), whether they are mental, physical, or one of each.

According to research, certain physical diseases increase the risk of comorbid mental health issues. For example,

Diabetes

Compared to people without diabetes, people with diabetes have a 2 to 3 times greater chance of being diagnosed with depression, and a 20% higher chance of experiencing anxiety.

Diabetes is also linked to a risk of higher mental illnesses. (Image via Pexels/Artem Podrez)
Diabetes is also linked to a risk of higher mental illnesses. (Image via Pexels/Artem Podrez)

4. Longevity

Longevity is one of the areas where the connection between mental and physical health is most evident. Numerous studies have discovered that people with mental health issues, such as schizophrenia or even depression, typically live shorter lifetimes than people without similar problems. According to the Mental Health Foundation, those with schizophrenia have twice the risk of developing some form of heart disease and a tripled risk of dying from a lung ailment. Depression has been associated with a 67 percent increase in heart disease mortality and a 50 percent increase in cancer mortality.

5. Genetic Conditions

Many disorders are inherited conditions. Your family’s health history (especially your immediate family) can help determine your risk of acquiring a specific condition.

Additionally, you may experience toxic stress if you previously or currently reside with a person with a mental health disorder. Toxic stress, according to the CDC, can "alter brain development and affect how the body responds to stress," despite not being an inherited illness.

Genetics plays a major role in both physical and mental disorders. (Image via Pixabay/Cezary)
Genetics plays a major role in both physical and mental disorders. (Image via Pixabay/Cezary)

6. Smoking and Other Habits

People with mental health issues are more likely to smoke more cigarettes overall among smokers. Levels of the chemical dopamine are generally low in those who suffer from depression. Positive emotions are influenced by dopamine in the brain. The nicotine in cigarettes triggers the production of dopamine, so smoking may be used as a way to relieve symptoms of depression.

Smoking increases the risk of not only physical illness but also mental disorders. (Image via Pixabay/Uki Eiri)
Smoking increases the risk of not only physical illness but also mental disorders. (Image via Pixabay/Uki Eiri)

Takeaway

Physical and mental health share a close relationship. Absence of disease in either doesn't mean you are healthy. The way physical exercise is encouraged in individuals, brain exercises or activities for mental well-being should be prioritized. This will help us move toward holistic health.


Janvi is a counselor with a master's degree in applied psychology with a specialisation in clinical psychology. She has worked with 100+ clients, whose narratives inspire her in the wide range of topics she covers in her writing– from anxiety and stress to grief and recovery.

Edited by Ramaa Kishore
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