People often associate the term “healthy living” or “keeping fit” to physical health. Although this may be true, it is not all there is when it comes to staying healthy. In fact, mental health is just as important as physical health because it gives us the drive to care for our bodies.
The problem with mental health is that there is often a stigma that comes with it. People don’t always seek help when they suffer from mental health issues because they don’t want to be labeled in a negative manner. Those with anxiety, depression, or personality disorders often don’t come forward because they are afraid of the judgments of other people. Thus, mental health problems somewhat become an “invisible disease” and yet the statistics may shock you:
- 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental health illnesses in a given year. Due to under-diagnosis, the ratio may even be higher.
- 1 in 25 Americans have serious mental health disorders that interfere with their everyday lives.
• 50.5% of adults who were diagnosed with substance abuse disorder have co-occurring mental health issues.
- 18.5% of Americans suffered at least a single episode of anxiety attacks, and 6.9% suffered from clinical depression.
We often see in social media how people post “before and after” pictures of their physical progress, but rarely is mental health being talked about. We like to portray picture perfect lives, and yet we may be suffering inside.
Thankfully, the dialogue about mental health disorders is being changed little by little. Through the help of different campaigns and people coming forward, we now understand how mental health affects our overall well-being. Here are some of the reasons why you should also prioritize your mental health.
Why should we prioritize mental health?
Mental health affects the overall quality of life.
Just like how caring for our bodies gives us the ability to function better, mental health gives the “will” to do so. People who suffer from depression often experience a loss of interest in daily activities, making them unable to eat, sleep, or do their occupations accordingly. This is one of the signs of clinical depression, and it is a proof that mental health also consequently affects physical health. People with severe mental health problems often report a poor quality of life because of distress, isolation, and low self-esteem.
The brain is considered the control center of the body, regulating our capacity to perform physical tasks. When there is a disorder, it may be difficult to stay fit physically and even to see the purpose of living one’s life. By doing something about it, we are addressing not only the problem but the parts of ourselves affected by it.
Stress is a big risk factor in degenerative diseases.
Some stress is beneficial. It gives the mind the ability to improve decision-making, and there are evidences that prove how it can help reduce boredom and depression. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing challenges because this is how people grow and it’s a natural way of life.
What’s not natural, however, is chronic stress. It has long been a topic of research with how chronic stress leads to many degenerative diseases such as stroke, heart attack, and neurological disorders. Stress management is one facet of caring for our mental health, and those who leave it behind may suffer from various forms of anxiety and depression.
When the brain is constantly stressed, it sends out hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in the body. These unusual levels of stress hormones pump up the blood pressure, making the body prone to blood clots, arterial blockages, irregular heart rhythms, and other complications related to poor circulation. As we battle heart disease and stroke with proper diet and exercise, learning to manage stress can also help us leaps and bounds.
Caring for our mental health helps reduce our risk for addictions.
The statistics shown earlier about mental health and substance abuse disorders is definitely something to think about. If almost half of the people who have taken drugs, used alcohol, or underwent other types of substance use problems also had mental health issues, is it likely that these problems could have been avoided if mental health problems were cared for in the first place?
According to SBH, a drug rehabilitation facility, there are many reasons why people eventually suffer from addictions. One of the main reasons includes co-occurring mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Substance use has been long linked as a coping mechanism for these types of mental health concerns.
Addictions can be harmful to the body because it alters the brain’s chemical balance. This may lead the person to suffer from serious organ damage, neurological problems, or self-care neglect. In other instances, chronic addictions may also prove to be fatal. By nipping the bud of mental health issues, we can avoid exposing ourselves to the dangers of substance use and other addictions.
Good mental health helps us maintain happy relationships.
One of the major needs, according to Maslow’s hierarchy is the sense of belongingness to others. We are social beings, and it is difficult for us to stay healthy and happy without building fulfilling relationships.
There are studies that show how maintaining happy relationships are correlated with good physical health. When we connect well with others, it boosts our immune system, lowers our stress levels, and gives us a boost of the feel-good hormones associated with well-being.
When one suffers from mental health disorders, it may be difficult to maintain steady relationships. For example, those who have borderline personality disorder may find themselves extremely codependent and emotional, repelling others to pursue romantic relationships or even maintain family ties. This can cause someone who has a borderline personality to suffer from stress, depression, and eventually other physical health issues.
The body as a whole
When it comes to staying healthy, we need to remember that the body is made up of parts that are interconnected. This is the basis of holistic health–we don’t just see being healthy as one aspect, but rather the connection of the mind, body, and spirit. When we care for all the elements that make up who we are, this is where we will achieve true health.
Charles Watson is the currently health content writer for Sunshine Behavioral Health. A lifelong health advocate, while not writing you can also catch him reading up on new material from his favorite author Tim Ferriss. He can be reached directly on Twitter at https://twitter.com/charleswatson00, or at https://sunshinebehavioralhealth.com.