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The Impact Of Physical Illness On Mental Health – Mental Health Awareness

Posted May 07 2010 5:30am
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This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series Mental Health Awareness

I believe that my physical illnesses contributed to the poor state of mind I had, as well as developing Clinical Depression, and an Anxiety Disorder. I went from being a relatively healthy person to someone who physically feels rotten much of the time. Also, several of the medications I am on to treat the diabetes and the asthma have been shown to directly affect your brain and lead to depression, especially, if you are already prone to depression or anxiety.  My counselor calls it co-morbidity.

I believe I have a better attitude and outlook about my physical illnesses. When I was in the hospital for my asthma in February,  I was not down in the dumps like I would have been before. Being there on my fortieth birthday did not bother me. I even kept blogging while I was there. I would have the nebulizer in my mouth, for a breathing treatment, and I would be blogging away at the same time. I also think my depression medications help counter how my other medications might affect my brain chemistry.


There is one particular aspect of  mental health that is still not widely discussed.  It is the impact that physical illness has on a person’s mental health.  Mental health workers easily recognize this fact, everyday they see patients with a multitude of physical and mental issues.  Unfortunately, few outside the mental health field see the correlation.

One way to put it in perspective is to think about how you feel when you have a cold.  Obviously, you have a stuffy nose, runny eyes, a fever, and you just feel physically awful.  How about the mental aspect of it?  Many people get cranky, and a bit irritable.   Very often it goes deeper than that.  Many people feel “blue” or “down in the dumps” when they have a cold.  I know I get really whiny when I have a cold.  The good thing is we know that a cold is not going to last very long, most of the time, and soon we will be back to feeling like ourselves.

Now think about this, what if the cold turned into a long term illness?  How do you think that would affect your mental health?  Most people, no matter how mild or serious the illness is, experience a wide range of emotions.  Emotions like anger, sadness, and worry.  We feel like we have no control and that our bodies have let us down.  We feel lonely, and even though there probably have been millions of other people with the same illness, we feel as if no one really understands what we are going through.

From a mental health perspective, when it comes to a chronic or long-term illness, anxiety and depression are the biggest concerns.  Many times these mental health issues  are  over-looked and left untreated.  Which can be very dangerous from both a mental health perspective, it can lead to suicide, and from a physical health perspective, it can delay healing.

Doctors are becoming more aware of how physical illnesses can affect mental health and attempt to be on the look out for the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression.  However, their best source of information about how you are doing mentally, is from you.  Your doctor will not be aware that you are having any mental health issues if you are not open and honest with them about what is going on in your life and how you are feeling.

  • People become depressed and anxious when they are stressed for any reason.  Being ill is stressful.
  • Some drug treatments, such as steroids, affect the way the brain works and can directly cause anxiety and depression.
  • Some physical illness, such as an under-active thyroid, affect the way the brain works and can directly cause anxiety and depression.
  • You have been anxious or depressed before.
  • You do not have family or friends you can talk to about your illness.
  • You are female (women report more anxiety and depression than men).
  • You have other problems or stresses going on in your life at the same time.
  • You are in a lot of pain.
  • Your illness is life threatening.
  • Your illness has left you incapable of taking care of yourself.
Series Navigation «Clinical Depression – Mental Health Awareness Humor And Mental Health – Mental Health Awareness»
Posted by Melissa Mashburn at 8:30 am

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