The impact of mental illness on our physical well being

Eat a well-balanced diet. Move ten thousand steps a day. Get effective sleep. We know these things help to keep our physical bodies healthy. But we can’t ignore our mental and emotional health. Studies show people with depression often have worse physical health, as well as worse self-perceived health, than those without depression.1 And unfortunately, the combination of medical challenges and certain emotional issues can double the impact on your overall well being. For example, individuals with both depression and physical health problems are at particular risk: The physical problem can complicate depression’s assessment and treatment by masking or mimicking its symptoms.2

 

Physicians/Providers and their mental and emotional well being

Changes in health care

Well documented and identified as a significant problem in health care; stress and burnout in physicians due to changes in administrative and regulatory requirements, ever-increasing workloads and a hyper-focus on patient outcomes makes mental and emotional well being an even tougher goal to achieve.

We already know physicians and providers are not always committed to taking care of their physical well being. The same is often true about their mental and emotional well being.

“As physicians, we’re trained to block out our own personal emotional issues and focus on our patients, our patients’ families and others,” says psychiatrist Daniel E. Wolf, D.O., “And a lot of doctors are not going to talk about things that they think others may view as weak or vulnerable because they think, ‘We’re the doctors and we’re supposed to fix people, not need help ourselves.’“3

Stigma

Disputing the stigma of mental illness is an important step in overall well-being. Emotional and mental health play an important role in a physician’s physical health.

The reluctance by physicians to seek mental health treatment is self-imposed. Many feel an obligation to appear healthy to their peers and patients. Some fear the stigma of mental illness or are concerned about confidentiality breaches. Others worry about professional repercussions such as maintaining their medical license.

“Physicians avoid seeking help for many reasons, not least of which is concern about losing their job or practice. But it’s critically important to recognize the problems when they exist and seek help. We are much more likely to cause harm to others and ourselves when we avoid getting help.” Kyle Jones, M.D. The stigma is sometimes difficult to overcome, but seeking proper services not only helps us, it helps our families, our friends and our patients.“

Emotions are impacted by physical health

The flipside is also true. Physical ailments can influence your outlook on life’s challenges. Consider how catching the common cold or the flu can put a wrench in your schedule making it difficult to maintain your regular pace and responsibilities. Following a longer or more serious illness, we may experience pain, frustration and confusion. Its possible relationships may become strained when co-workers are called on to help. Both of these examples illustrate how easily physical health can influence emotional and mental health.

Ask for help

The old chicken or the egg question applies to mental health and physical health. It’s not always clear which comes first. The important point is to give your mental and emotional health as much attention as your physical health.

“I know I’m repeating myself, but I can’t say it enough: Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance when you need it.” Kyle Jones, M.D.

We can help.

VITAL WorkLife can also help. As part of your benefit through VITAL WorkLife, you have unlimited telephone consultations with consultants who can give you solid advice on developing emotional intelligence. If you would like more focused work in this area, Peer Coaching is great way to address it. To speak with a consultant or a Peer Coach give us a call at 877.731.3949. We’re available anytime, day or night.

Sources:

1, 2 The Relationship Between Mental and Physical Health, Jane Collingwood, https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-relationship-between-mental-and-physical-healh/

3 When darkness settles: Depressed physicians face barriers to treatment, Rose Raymond, The DO http://thedo.osteopathic.org

4 Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness in Physicians: My Story, Kyle Jones, M.D, http://blogs.aafp.org/cfr/freshperspectives/entry/overcoming_the_stigma_of_mental

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