Mental problems are getting quite common these days. With stressful life, chaotic schedules and a bad lifestyle- around 14% of people suffer from mental health or psychological disorders and right from Biological to Psychosocial- there could be varied causes of such illness. But do mental ailments cause any kind of physical symptoms? Mariah Teresa Lobo, Consultant Psychologist at Manipal Hospital, Dona Paula Goa is here today to provide insight on this disturbing disorder while suggesting the coping mechanism to manage the physical symptoms of mental disorders.
What causes psychological/mental disorders?
Studies find that there is no singular cause that can be attributed to psychological or mental disorders. Rather, it is a combination of Bio-Psycho-Social risk factors like genetics, nutrition, lifestyle/ environment and stressful life events, to name a few. This predisposes an individual to eventually develop a psychological or mental disorder which is required to be clinically recognized or assessed, explains Dr Mariah Teresa Lobo. The effects and symptoms of mental illness differ in individuals, “the main focus is to explore a set of cognitive (thought processes), emotional and behavioural symptoms (for prolonged periods of time) which are associated with a systematic breakdown of functioning in aspects of personal, professional and social wellbeing,” she adds.
How mental stress can cause physical problems and how to recognise the symptoms?
Short-term - situation-based stress is good for us. When we are stressed the body releases stress hormones that activate the "fight-flight-freeze" response, as a defence mechanism. Physically, stress triggers rapid breathing, elevates heart-rate/ blood pressure and tenses up the muscles, amongst other symptoms, this is intended to help us cope with the stressful situation. However, constantly facing these types of symptoms unchecked for extended periods of time would cause physical distress and eventual "wear and tear" of the body. Imagine training for a marathon day and night without any relaxation, not knowing when the race will end, reveals Mariah.
She further adds that excessive stress in daily life can manifest in multiple ways, some of which can be identified as; aches and pains, irregular sleeping and eating patterns, exhaustion or low energy, general slowing down in productivity, burnout, gastrointestinal and reproductive issues.
What coping mechanisms one can use to manage the physical symptoms of mental illness?
A deep evaluation of the nature of the onset as well as Bio-Psycho-Social factors contributing to mental illness is extremely vital to consider before providing any coping techniques, “Don't forget that individual differences matter too. Therefore, a holistic and person-centred approach is extremely vital to tackle mental illnesses. It is very important to understand that coping with mental illness is one thing and working towards mental well-being is another. If you look closely, these have one thing in common - lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle, with poor time management, is a disadvantage to anyone. It is beneficial to follow a structured routine that is intellectually and physically stimulating. Regular exercise, a healthy balanced diet and sleep hygiene are the trifectas for dealing with physical symptoms of mental illness,” says Mariah Teresa Lobo.
She further adds that the brain needs exercise too! Engaging with moderately challenging activities, say, learning and acquiring new skills, memory-based tasks and tasks that are focused on improving problem-solving and decision-making, are known to build an individual's resilience to mental illness. “Additionally, studies suggest that practising relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, spending time in nature and yoga also prove to help in managing physical symptoms within mental illnesses,” she explains.