Anyone who experiences mental health issues – and particularly those who have them alongside an issue like autism – will be familiar with the line taken by skeptics. People like to insist that mental health issues are “all in your mind” and some genuinely seem to believe that it’s merely a matter of resolving to overcome the problems. Whether it’s anxiety, depression or any other condition that is recognized as a mental illness, the idea that you can simply think your way out of any of these conditions is ludicrous – and, as the points below illustrate, mental health is anything but “all in the mind”
Stress has direct physical consequences
The idea that stress can be a valid reason to take time out from work has come in for some criticism recently. In part, the reason for this increased focus relates to the renowned sports professionals that have highlighted their issues with stress and anxiety. Anyone who has ever experienced stress as a condition will know just how much of an impact it has; at a high enough level it will directly impact upon your digestion and can also affect the function of your heart. There are people who will tell you that the correct response to stress is to ignore it and keep plowing on – but the medical facts tell a different story.
Depression affects your sleep, which affects everything
Not that you should need any additional reason for seeking help for depression, beyond the simple fact that depression is a horrendous experience – but for some people, that’s not enough. If you are experiencing depression, the likelihood is that your sleep will be negatively affected. The ability to switch off at night is impaired by intrusive thoughts, and any sleep you do get tends to be of a lower quality than you’d hope for. This is a cause for concern, because you need to be getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep. Without it, you’ll see impairments to your motor function, to your immune system and your recovery from illness and injury.
Mental health issues affect the brain, not just the mind
To suggest that mental health is “all in the mind” implies that the mind is simply related to how we feel. Those of us who have experienced depression, anxiety, ADHD or in many cases autism, will know of a phenomenon that’s called brain fog. It’s a somewhat vague term, which is appropriate given how it affects our ability to think clearly, but brain fog is recognized by doctors as a set of symptoms. As far as we can tell, it is related to the overproduction of anxiety-related hormones such as cortisol, and it affects decision-making, problem-solving. Brain fog can affect anyone, and condemn some of the most brilliant people you know to incoherence and inaction.
It’s worth remembering that the dividing line between mental health and physical health exists only in the sense of where a condition begins. Some issues are born in the mind, and some grow in a more physical space. But before long, mental health will affect the body just as physical health affects the mind – and anyone who chooses to separate the two is missing the point.
This is a contributed post and therefore may not reflect the views and opinions of this blog or its author.