In a post we wrote before, we talked about how some of the signs of depression or anxiety can be physical. In this post, I’d like to try to think about this a little deeper. What I mean is how does physical pain make emotional pain worse and vice versa.
Here are some examples:
You lack an appetite so you don’t eat much one day. Not getting good nutrition and being mildly dehydrated makes you have low energy and have trouble concentrating. You also become more irritable and snap at your friend. You start to feel really hungry all of a sudden and decide to stop and get fast food. You eat a big meal with a lot of fat and afterwards you start to feel nauseous because your stomach acid is refluxing and your body is working extra hard to break down the big meal you just had. When you get home, you go straight to your room and go to sleep until the next day. When you wake up, you feel guilty that you didn’t get anything accomplished yesterday. You drink a giant cup of coffee – and uh oh now your stomach is gurgling again…
Some patients are upset when they feel like someone is telling them their pain is “all in their head.” I like to tell them it is not in your head – but it is all connected. When we feel bad, we don’t take care of our physical needs – and when we don’t care of those, it makes us feel bad. Sometimes this cycle can get so bad, we can’t break it without a lot of support.
Here’s another example:
You are feeling very stressed about a conflict you are having with a friend and are holding your shoulders stiff all day. At the end of the day, your neck starts to throb. Uh oh – that’s your sign that a migraine is about to come on. You are not home yet and you don’t have your medication on you. By the time you get home, the migraine has already gotten bad – you take the medication and go straight to bed. Well it was unavoidable wasn’t it? Now thinking back, you realize there are more factors that contributed to your migraine. Migraines do not like someone who does very good self-care including staying hydrated, eating regular meals, exercising, getting enough sleep. Not only did your stress contribute to your migraine – the stress and worry also distracted you from the good self-care you usually are on top of.
This highlights the idea that mental health is dependent on so many things, including how we take care of our physical health.
Do these examples sound like something you’ve experienced? If not, do you have others?