Changing how we view Mental Health disorders
The goal for me when starting The Health Hun, was to help and educate others by writing about common disorders and conditions, while also giving practical solutions to approach them. So, when I sat down to write my second piece, I found myself stuck on what topic to choose. I was afraid that the selection of my next topic, may not be of relevance to all readers due to specificity. I was then reminded that even if I was to help just one person, it would be worth writing. I plan to discuss a range of interesting, human health related topics such as gut disorders, hormones, the importance of nutrition, the effects of stress and so much more. Today I’m going to talk about why I feel mental health disorders need to be investigated in the same scientific approach any physical medical problems would be.
In recent years, there has been a positive movement towards breaking the stigma that is attached to mental health. The importance of looking after yourself, slowing down and doing what makes you happy is becoming a priority, which in my opinion, is so important. However, without getting into the statistics, there also seems to be a rise in the number of people suffering from mental health disorders. We are moving in the right direction and urging people to open up, but what if that’s not enough? Many people still view mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, as conditions that are ‘in their heads’, when they should be treated the same as any physical condition would be. There are so many factors at play that can cause the development of a mental condition, many that are generally not addressed. This can lead to treating a patient with non-specific treatments, like standard anti-depressant/anxiolytic drugs. To break the stigma, we need to change how we view these disorders, as they are not always simply down to emotions and feelings. Obviously, emotions, feelings and trauma play a huge role in these disorders, but I wanted to discuss this topic at a different angle. By doing so, I hope to raise awareness of what unknown factors can contribute to these disorders.
Generally, the root cause of any mental disorder is unknown. There are so many factors that can affect your mental health such as nutrient deficiencies, the bacteria that reside in your gut, inflammation, having excessive body fat (causing inflammation) and stress. Not many people know that their lifestyle can lead to problematic mental health symptoms. If any of the above factors are to ‘blame’ for a patient’s mental state, then treating them with non-specific medication is not going to fix the problem. As I’ve said before, prescribing medication to mask the symptoms is something I have experienced, and I hope to enlighten people to know that this isn’t always the answer. I know that anti-depressants and anti-anxiolytics can be beneficial for some individuals, so I’m not trying to take away from that. I am simply trying to start a discussion to inform people that their lifestyle choices can negatively impact the systems in their bodies, which can lead to a malfunctioning mind. I didn’t want to go into too much detail on any one element that I mentioned above, as I will most likely write about each one individually, another time.
These influential factors are so common nowadays, as we constantly expose our bodies to high levels of stress, low quality diets of nutrient poor, highly processed foods and so on. Most people are aware that these things can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer etc., but why are people not aware they are also associated with poor mental health? Excessive body fat can cause the release of molecules called cytokines that cause inflammation such as pain and swelling, but they can also reduce the production of serotonin – an essential feel good chemical for the body. Nutrient deficiencies can appear in the body as skin or visual problems, but nutrient deficiencies can also lead to depression. Take a magnesium deficiency for example, a lack of this essential mineral can induce depressive symptoms, due to the resulting neuronal damage.
To ultimately break the stigma, it’s so important that we start to paint the picture that mental health disorders should most definitely be viewed and treated the same as physical health disorders. They are not a one size fits all and are just as complex. We are notorious for bottling up our feelings in Ireland, so we need to keep pushing the message that it’s ok to talk, while also starting discussions like this. We need to be kinder to ourselves, look after ourselves and respect our bodies by nourishing them with a good quality diet. Don’t forget the other side and to eat that donut, because donuts are good for your soul fam.