Mental Illness Increases Risk of Death
One in four adults-approximately 61.5 million Americans-experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 17-about 13.6 million-live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.
Unfortunately, it’s not getting better, as these are similar statistics that I reported in 2009. Many people don’t automatically equate their mental state with their physical vitality, but it is.
Do you think that word impacts your biochemistry?
Ok, you got the picture.
When I first started practicing, the impact of chronic, negative stress on health wasn’t widely publicized. Now it’s common knowledge. In fact it’s pretty easy now to find articles on how stress has an impact on every function of the body.
Think about it. When you are stressed, you can’t digest your food effectively and bring nutrients to your vital organs. Furthermore, long-term, negative stress can promote inflammation or immune dysfunction and cause hormones and neurotransmitters to become unbalanced. In their article, How Stress Effects Your Health, The American Psychological Association states:
Other forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have also been implicated in increased cardiovascular risk. And once you’re sick, stress can also make it harder to recover. One analysis of past studies, for instance, suggests that cardiac patients with so-called “Type D” personalities — characterized by chronic distress — face higher risks of bad outcomes
Now, according to Medical News Today, mental health isn’t just about disease processes, but it can actually be linked to a reduced lifespan:
A new analysis by psychiatrists at the University of Oxford in the UK finds that serious mental disorders can reduce life expectancy by 10 to 20 years – about the same or more than the impact of heavy smoking. Yet, mental health does not receive the same public health priority as smoking, they say.
Stress is Contagious
An article in Psychoneuroendocrinology reports:
Stress disorders are among the most commonly occurring of all mental disorders.
In a trial with 211 subjects, those who witnessed others stress via live video or observing the victims in real time actually experienced physiological stress responses themselves. This stress effect was measured by a rise in the hormone cortisol.
The Mind-Body Connection to Gene/ Disease Expression
One of the best remedies for stress and modifying risk of stress-induced diseases is mindfulness or relaxation-based techniques. The Institute for Society Reports:
This mind-body divide has truly broken down, as researchers are identifying hundreds and thousands of genes that are affected by our subjective mental states. Feeling constantly sad and depressed can genuinely turn on genes that make us physically unwell and prone to viral infections and chronic diseases, just as feeling particularly relaxed and peaceful can turn off those genes and activate others that help us heal and fight infections. The emerging field of human social genomics is demonstrating that social conditions, especially our subjective perceptions thereof can radically change our gene expression states . This has opened up new ways of intervention.
Mindfulness or meditation can be as simple as pausing for a few moments and bringing the focus to the breath in order to calm the brain. Other ways to reduce stress were discussed in my previous blog and include:
1. Eating a healthy diet with whole, organic foods
2. Decreasing the environmental exposure on your brain and body
3. Getting out in nature
4. Bonding with loved ones and friends
The Physical Effects of Stress & How it “Weighs” on the Mind
In my four part series on weight loss, I listed a variety of physiological factors involved in trumping weight loss and many are also connected to emotional and mood imbalances. These factors can be addressed as one is taking care of the mental chatter and actually make a brain calmer by addressing them. These include:
1. Yeast overgrowth or “intestinal dysbiosis”
2. Mal-absorption (Leaky Gut) & nutritional deficiencies
3. Food allergies
5. Hormonal imbalances, including low thyroid
In fact, I learned from the Thyroid Summit and Thyroid Sessions how low mood and anxiety can be caused by a thyroid imbalance. Unfortunately, this is often missed by practitioners and many are treated with antidepressant medications.
I look at neurotransmitter imbalance more as an effect of the mood imbalance. It isn’t that someone has a Prozac deficiency, the serotonin is depleted for a variety of reasons (see 1-5 above) and as a result, depression or anxiety can result.
An integrative practitioner can seek to find and correct the particular brain chemicals that are unbalanced using functional labs and symptom-based surveys. It is important to use the correct neurotransmitter or symptoms can worsen. However, by using the proper assessment, more healthy brain patterns can result along with the relief of addiction and mood imbalances.
In other words, neurotransmitter levels are clues to determine which part of the brain needs to be calmed or activated. Dr. Amen founded this technique and uses it in his clinic. (I discuss this in more detail in my book)
Dr. Kelly Brogan on the Disillusion and Poor Science Behind Modern Psychiatry
In this video, Dr. Brogan reviews why a whole body approach to brain health is vital and why the theory of neurotransmitters as a cause of depression is flawed:
Now, I can’t leave out the mood-balancing effect of essential oils!
Did you know lemon was an essential oil that can relieve stress and anxiety?
Read more about the benefits of lemon here.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). www.nami.org
National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. Statistics: Any Disorder Among Adults. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYDIS_ADULT.shtml
National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. Any Disorder Among Children. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYDIS_CHILD.shtml
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Images courtesy of istockphotos: istockphoto.com