Poor mental health has a significant impact on your physical health and vice versa. Mental health disorders are associated with the onset, progression, and outcome of several disorders and diseases, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more. Poor mental health can have lasting consequences on our physical health, our relationships with others, and the way we view ourselves.
Mental illness is one of the most common causes of disability in the United States. It’s estimated that one in four adults in the U.S. experience a mental health disorder each year, with the most common disorders being anxiety or depression. One in 17 Americans has a severe mental illness, which puts them at an even higher risk for physical health complications and diseases. Suicide has become the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with an average of 129 suicides every day.
Mental illness includes a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, eating disorders, addictive behaviors, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia. Taking care of your mental health, especially if you have a mental illness, is crucial to healthy living. By taking the time to manage your mental health, you can reduce your risk for certain diseases and improve your physical health and wellness.
Symptoms of Mental Illness
There are several signs and symptoms of mental illness. Your mental health may be suffering if you experience symptoms such as:
- Persistent sadness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive worries or fears
- Frequent or extreme changes in mood
- Withdrawal from friends, hobbies, or activities that you once enjoyed
- Substantial changes to eating habits
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations
- Difficulty sleeping or fatigue
- Suicidal thoughts
Causes and Risk Factors for Mental Health Disorders
Mental illness is believed to be caused by a variety and combination of environmental and genetic factors. While most Americans will experience poor mental health at some point in their lives, you may be more likely to develop a mental illness if you:
- Have blood relatives that suffer from mental illness
- Were exposed to alcohol, drugs, toxins, or other stressors before birth
- Have an impaired brain chemistry
Risk factors in your life can impact your mental health and increase your risk for mental illness. These factors include:
- Traumatic experiences, such as assault, violence, or military combat
- The use of recreational drugs or alcohol
- A chronic medical condition, such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease
- Stressful situations within your life, such as financial problems, divorce, the death of a loved one, or a stressful job
Mental illness affects people of all ages, and the effects can be temporary or long-lasting. Proper self-care and healthy living guidelines can help reduce the symptoms of mental illness and improve your overall physical and psychological health.
Physical Health Impacts of Mental Health
Mental health has a significant impact on physical health. Mental health disorders and poor mental health is commonly associated with the risk, management, and outcome of physical health conditions and chronic diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- Certain cancers
How Physical Health Impacts Your Mental Health
Your physical health can have just as much of an effect on your mental health. This association suggests that chronic diseases or the onset of certain disorders can cause or worsen mental illness, creating a vicious cycle of poor health. It is essential to treat and manage both your physical and mental health simultaneously to break free of this cycle.
5 Steps to Take to Improve Your Mental Health
There are several steps that you can take to improve your mental health. These five healthy living guidelines will improve your overall wellness, mood, and reduce your risk for chronic illness.
1. Regular Exercise
Having an active lifestyle and exercising regularly will help you improve your mental health. Exercise offers a lot of benefits, including the reduction of depression, anxiety, and negative moods while increasing your cognitive function. Committing to regular exercise will also improve your sleep and relieve stress, both of which can have a significant impact on your mental health.
2. Learn How to Reduce and Cope with Stress
Most Americans experience stress in their daily lives. Learning how to cope with stress will help improve your mood and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. Reducing the stress will reduce your risk of developing physical health conditions, too, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
3. Get Enough Sleep Each Night
Failing to get enough sleep night after night is detrimental to your mental health. Studies have shown that patients who have mental illness are more likely to have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia. Between 65 and 90 percent of adults who suffer from depression also experience trouble sleeping. You can improve the amount of sleep you get each night in several ways, including maintaining a regular exercise routine, avoiding caffeine, giving yourself enough time to sleep, and relaxation techniques.
4. Maintain a Healthy Diet
There is a growing amount of evidence that your diet affects your mental health. Studies have found links between common mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and poor diet quality. Have you ever heard the term, “You are what you eat?” The saying isn’t far from the mark.
The food and nutrients we eat impacts our brain’s development and function. Certain nutrients have been linked to changes within the brain, including omega-3s and zinc. The food we eat also impacts our immune system, which in turn affects our mental health.
5. Seek Out Help When You Need It
All of us need help sometimes. Seeking help for mental illness is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. As we’ve outlined here, your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and these aspects of your health determine your overall wellness. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of mental illness.
Thoughts from USHEALTH Group
Mental health is just as crucial to healthy living as your physical health is. Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to improve and manage your mental health. Doing so will improve your overall wellness and help you live a longer, healthier life.
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