When Mental Health Becomes Physical

Happy Wednesday! If you haven’t been reading my editorials lately, let me bring you up to speed. May is Mental Health Awareness month. As an advocate for Mental Health Awareness, I have been focusing my articles around topics related to mental illness and treatment. This week I’m going to cover how our physical health could be affected by our mental health.

According to the University of Oxford, mental illness can reduce life expectancy more than heavy smoking. Surprised? I was too. Research by psychiatrists show that mental illness has been recorded to reduce lifespan up to 20 years; a loss higher than that of heavy smokers.

So how does a mental problem become a physical problem? I’m glad you asked. People who suffer from mental illness often develop physical problems. This occurs because their mental illness becomes a barrier to seeking treatment. For example, mental illness can prevent people from receiving routine screenings (such as blood pressure, weight, or cholesterol) that serve as early indicators for serious illness.

In recent years, psychiatrists have noted a link between mental disorders such as depression, and physical disorders such as heart disease. In fact, studies suggest that depression has led to a 67% increased risk of death from heart disease, and a 50% increased risk of death from cancer (Mental Health Foundation).

And that’s not all. Other serious mental illnesses have been linked to physical illnesses such as: skin problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, weakened immune systems, asthma, obesity, gastrointestinal problems, and premature death.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “complete mental, physical, and social well-being”. That being said, it’s apparent that much of our overall well-being is affected by our mental health.

If you are suffering from mental illness, treatment is encouraged. By treating mental illnesses early, you are lowering the likelihood of developing serious physical disorders. If you would like more information about mental illness or want to schedule a therapy session, we’re here for you.

The Grafton-Taylor County Health Department is now offering Behavioral Health services by appointment only. We are currently accepting new patients, so don’t hesitate to make your appointment today by calling the office during normal business hours (Monday-Friday; 8AM-4PM) at 304-265-1288.

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