Mental Health is Physical Health and Physical Health is Mental Health

Physical Health vs Menatal Health

Table of Contents

How do you know you need mental health services? Easy, do you have a body? Do you have a
brain? Do you want to take care of them? Then yes, you need mental health services. How
often and what mental health services you access may vary but everyone could benefit from
regular check-ups, and when needed, interventions to maintain their mental health. Ideally, at
minimum, you should have a screening at your primary care appointments.

Unfortunately, in the United States, mental health care is treated as a specialty separate from
physical health. General medical providers often do not receive adequate training to be able to
make a comprehensive mental health assessment. Compound this with pressures from
insurance companies and large medical organizations, and medical providers are rarely allowed
the time needed or adequate reimbursement required to complete comprehensive mental health
assessments. Because our culture stigmatizes mental health care, most clients only have a
medical health provider, they don’t have a mental health provider to complete this screening

What is the net effect of this flawed system? Mental health disorders are often undiagnosed and
the National Institute of Health reports that the time from symptom onset to time of adequate
treatment is often delayed a decade or more. Unlike the physical symptoms of physical health
problems such as fever, sore throat, cough, and congestion that have an abrupt and very
noticeable onset, the symptoms (including physical symptoms) of mental health conditions often
have a gradual and subtle onset. Because mental health conditions have physical
manifestations, it is difficult for clients to recognize their own symptoms and understand how
and when to seek treatment. Because we often do not talk about mental health symptoms or
include mental health education in basic physical education, many people are unaware of the
risk factors and symptoms they should be aware of that can indicate mental health distress

So what are the physical symptoms of mental illness? Common symptoms include fatigue,
palpitations, dizziness, difficulty focusing, abdominal discomfort, changes in appetite, sleep
disturbances, nausea and diarrhea, body aches, and headaches-just to name a few. As you can
see, many of these symptoms also occur in physical illnesses

Here’s where it gets even more complicated. Often, the underlying cause of mental health
symptoms of distress are physical illnesses. Even worse, many clients experience mental health
challenges secondary to the way their physical symptoms are treated in our healthcare system.
Medical trauma is a common cause of mental and physical symptoms.

Most importantly, in order to achieve your physical health goals, it is essential to take care of
your mental health. Regardless of whether we are discussing physical health or mental health,
lifestyle modifications are an important part of your plan of care. This may include strategies that
help you take medication consistently and help you prevent or manage any side effects you may
experience from medication. From a mental health perspective, having a physical diagnosis
naturally creates grieving, which unaddressed, can worsen your mental and physical health
outcomes.

When I worked in Family Practice, I spent the majority of my time treating chronic health
problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, and chronic pain due to a
variety of causes. Our healthcare system prioritizes disease treatment rather than disease
prevention. When I transitioned to working in college health, I was excited to have an
opportunity to provide primary prevention and I envisioned educating patients about nutrition,
exercise, and other health promotion activities. What I found was that most of my patients
understood the basics of what they needed to do to take care of their bodies. What they didn’t
know was how to motivate themselves and prioritize their needs in our hustle-focused,
profit-driven, independence-oriented culture. Even when clients understood what they needed to
do to take care of their health and wanted to take the needed actions, they didn’t find success.

When I worked in Family Practice, I spent the majority of my time treating chronic health
problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, and chronic pain due to a
variety of causes. Our healthcare system prioritizes disease treatment rather than disease
prevention. When I transitioned to working in college health, I was excited to have an
opportunity to provide primary prevention and I envisioned educating patients about nutrition,
exercise, and other health promotion activities. What I found was that most of my patients
understood the basics of what they needed to do to take care of their bodies. What they didn’t
know was how to motivate themselves and prioritize their needs in our hustle-focused,
profit-driven, independence-oriented culture. Even when clients understood what they needed to
do to take care of their health and wanted to take the needed actions, they didn’t find success.

After more than twenty years of working in healthcare, I still believe that preventative medicine
is essential. I am still excited to help clients fully optimize their physical and mental health. At
Joy Spring Mental Health, this looks different than other practices because I understand that the
core foundation required for optimal full-body health is for clients to understand how their brains
work, how to get to the core of the what and why of their struggles-whether physical or mental,
and how to tease out the complexity of what is what when it comes to the interconnection
between physical and mental health.

Your nervous system does not operate outside your body or independently from your other body
systems. It is a complex interplay between all of your body systems and the external
environment and your personal experiences that creates your unique beautiful whole. It is
natural and wholly human to function in this way. When your physical health is integrated with
your mental health, you develop the freedom to create the life that is meaningful to, the
endurance to overcome challenges, and the communication skills to build genuine and lasting
relationships.

If you have ever experienced a traumatic medical event, have a chronic health condition, or
have physical symptoms that are not fully resolved with medical care, adding mental health care
services to your plan of care, can make all the difference. Better yet, you don’t have to wait until
you have physical problems, optimizing your mental health before periods of distress is a great
way to protect your physical health.