As a former teacher, I became very familiar with students who had chronic tummy aches, which sent them to the nurse on a weekly or even daily basis. Stress over tests, conflict at home, and friend issues were all things that would seem to cause these stomach aches to resurface. Over time it was learned, more often than not, that these students were in fact dealing with anxiety and not a physical stomach virus. If you have ever experienced anxiety in your own life, then you know that anxiety can cause nausea, an upset stomach, and stomach cramping. You may also have experienced other physiological symptoms from anxiety such as rapid breathing, shaking, and even chest tightness. Other people suffer from depression, which can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, a lower pain tolerance, muscle aches, and headaches. These are just some of the many examples of what we call the Mind-Body Connection.
In the early 1900’s, doctors in the United States began documenting an increased notice in the connection between mental and physical health. One study that was documented by Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones in the 1920’s found that ⅓ of his medical cases were actually related to mental health issues. He found that patients coming in with physical symptoms were often also dealing with heightened anxiety, depression, and poor self image. In recent years, medical doctors have found that the body and brain are physically much more interconnected than originally thought. For example, our brains and stomachs are connected by millions of nerves and neurons, explaining occurrences such as an individual having an upset stomach before a major exam. When our brains and minds begin to experience anxiety, these connecting nerves and neurons carry signals to our gut, causing a physiological response.
Many doctors and mental health professionals are now seeing this Mind-Body Connection and the importance of treating mental and physical health together instead of separately. The therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling have seen many clients over the years who have come to them for counseling but were also experiencing physical symptoms such as eating issues, difficulty swallowing, and GI issues. As these clients have worked through their mental health issues of anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, they have seen their physical symptoms also improve.
This Mind-Body Connection also validates the importance of taking care of our physical bodies as it leads to a healthier mental state. Eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, exercising, and making time for your mind and body to rest are all ways to improve our physical and mental health.
If you are struggling with physical symptoms that you suspect could be related to a mental health issue, we would love to talk with you. Our therapists are trained in helping children, teens, and adults improve their mental health, which in turns leads to greater physical health. To find out more about our services or to talk with someone about if counseling could help you, please give our office a call at 912-319-5552. We look forward to speaking with you!