When you picture a healthy person, you might visualize someone who is physically healthy. But it’s also important to consider how this person thinks, feels, and acts. In other words, are they emotionally healthy? If you understand why mental health is important, you will have a different perspective on being healthy.
What is Mental Health, and Why is It Important?
Mental health is a state of well-being where you realize your abilities, cope with life’s stresses, work productively, and contribute to your community.
People maintain positive mental health by:
- Connecting with others
- Helping others
- Developing positive coping mechanisms
- Seeking help if they need it
Mental health and physical health work together. Mental health plays a significant role in individuals’ ability to maintain good physical health. Mental illnesses affect people’s ability to participate in health-promoting behaviors. Likewise, complications with physical health, like chronic diseases, can impact mental health.
While anyone can develop a mental health issue, treatment and healing also are possible for anyone. It’s essential to understand why mental health is important to live your best life.
What Impacts a Person’s Mental Health?
While there is no single cause for mental illness, trauma is a major factor. Studies show that traumatic experiences, even if unrelated to present problems, impact mental health. If never processed and dealt with, trauma will continue to hinder a person’s emotional, social, and physical health.
Other factors that impact mental health include:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Family history of mental health issues
- Lifestyle, such as stress, diet, physical activity, and substance use
How Mental Health Disorders Impact People
Mental health disorders can manifest in many ways, impacting all aspects of your life. If you recognize that your mental health can affect your physical and social well-being, you’re on your way to understanding why mental health is important.
Mental health’s effects on physical well-being include:
- Physical Health Problems. Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety can leave you feeling paralyzed, sick, and unable to do things you typically enjoy. You may develop real physical health problems (i.e., stomach aches, gastrointestinal concerns, headaches) as a result of a mental illness.
- Addictions. You may begin using substances as a way to cope with your mental health issues. Addictions and substance use disorders can cause physical changes in the body, such as poor physical coordination, eye dilation, and stomach and headaches.
- Eating Disorders. Extreme eating habits are a sign of disordered eating, whether you are eating too much, too little, exercising extreme amounts, or purging your body of calories. Regardless of the type of disordered eating, it has physical health consequences.
- Self Harm/Suicide. Scars, fresh scratches or cuts, bruises, and missing hair are symptoms of self-harm. Mental illness, when left untreated, can culminate in suicide.
Effects on social well-being include:
- Poor Relational Connections. Living with a mental illness is taxing. You may have trouble expressing empathy and intimacy. It eventually may harm your ability to have relationships with others.
- Isolation. You may avoid disclosing your mental illness to friends for fear of judgment, resulting in withdrawal. Or you may just not feel like being around people. But isolation results in loneliness and lack of a support system in a time when you need it most.
- Increased Relational Conflict. Mental illnesses can cause stress in your relationships. It can impact your trust and problem-solving abilities and may make you overly protective, hostile, or angry.
- Inability to Maintain Employment. People with mental illness have higher rates of unemployment and work disability. Mental illness can be debilitating to all aspects of your daily life, including work.
In addition to physical and social effects, mental health issues also can multiply. An inability to healthily cope with the cause of the mental health issue may result in other mental illnesses. Co-occurring disorders are when mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety, happen together.
Not everyone with mental health issues realizes what is happening with them. It tends to be easier to recognize mental health concerns in others than it is in yourself. Whether you’re thinking about yourself or someone else in your life, there are signs to look for that might suggest a mental health concern.
Signs of mental health issues include:
- Erratic sleep patterns, either sleeping too much or too little
- No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyable
- Low or no energy
- Feeling numb or hopeless
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Being or feeling combative
- Having persistent thoughts that won’t go away
- Experiencing extreme mood swings
If you or someone you love are showing signs of mental health issues, it’s important to seek help. There is no reason to live your life being emotionally unhealthy when healing is possible.
How Integrative Life Center Can Help
Maintaining your mental health is part of living a wholesome, healthy life. Mental illness is not a myth. It impacts you physically, mentally, and socially.
There is no shame in seeking help. If you or a loved one are experiencing mental health concerns, even if you can’t name exactly what is happening, contact Integrative Life Center to find out what treatment options are best for you.