We’ve all heard the phrase “mind-body connection” but probably haven’t thought too critically about what this means and how it might be impacting our overall wellbeing. Many employees may first visit a primary care provider for underlying mental health concerns. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 55.7 million visits to physician offices result in mental disorders as the primary diagnosis.
So, how are mental health and physical health intertwined? Below, Eden’s mental health experts weigh in on how our mental well-being can impact our physical health.
HOW CAN MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES MANIFEST AS PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS?
“Just as a medical issue can impact our mental health by creating stress and disruption in our lives, mental health problems can also lead to a greater risk of physical illness,” said Alice Kim, LICSW and Mental Health Clinician at Eden. “For example, a recent Brigham Young University study reported that loneliness and isolation can be as harmful to our physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Symptoms of anxiety or depression can not only impact our mood but our sleep rhythms, diet, and activity levels.”
“The mind and body are intricately connected, and when one part is stressed, the other part is affected,” added Stacie Bliss, LPC and Eden Mental Health Coach. “More specifically, mental health struggles trigger the production of our stress hormones — cortisol and adrenaline. The physical effects of elevated stress hormones can be increased heart rate and blood pressure, suppressed digestive functioning, and increased inflammation, which can lower the immune system’s ability to fight off illnesses and infections.”
COMMON PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS THAT MAY ARISE FROM MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS
There are many ways that stressors to our mental health can manifest as physical symptoms. These can include:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Having low or no energy
- Unexplained aches or pains like headaches or stomach aches
- Difficulty concentrating and brain fog
- High blood pressure
- Digestion issues such as acid reflux, constipation, or diarrhea
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
“At times, physical symptoms can be the result of something happening emotionally for us,” said Kim. “Like a check engine light, physical symptoms can alert us to evaluate whether the underlying cause might actually be an emotional struggle. For example, IBS symptoms might be the result of a big work project assigned to us, or sleepless nights might be the result of an unresolved relational conflict. In both cases, we would want to address both the symptom and the cause together.”
COLLABORATIVE CARE AS THE WHOLE-PATIENT SOLUTION
“Collaborative care looks at a patient holistically and brings together different care team members to provide whole-person treatment,” explained Dr. Rachelle Scott, Eden’s Director of Psychiatry. “Collaborative care helps to identify patients earlier who are at risk of mental health issues through screening and offers a model to provide treatment, whether it be therapy, medication management, or both.”
Having access to both a primary care provider and mental health clinician can help educate and inform the patient on what treatment is best for their situation.
“Collaborative care provides increased opportunities to address a patient’s physical and emotional needs, leading to greater adherence to care, faster healing, and lower costs of care,” said Bliss. “Within a collaborative care model, providers can work together behind the scenes to ensure that patients are getting the care they need promptly.”
At Eden Health, our collaborative care approach focuses on whole-patient health. Our providers ensure that primary care and mental health concerns are not siloed and work together to create a seamless patient care experience. To learn more about how collaborative care can protect the physical and mental wellbeing of your workforce, request a demo from a member of our team.
This blog is intended to be informational in nature. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your Care Team or other healthcare provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials.