How do medical conditions affect mental health?

When individuals are coping with medical conditions, they often do not consider how that condition might affect their mental health. There is, however, a deep connection between or physical health and our mental health. According to research, as many as 29 percent of those with existing medical conditions have a related mental health disorder.

When mental and physical disorders co-exist, it can seriously affect a patient’s quality of life. This situation can even cause physical ailments to last longer and lower a patient’s chance of getting better. Any patient dealing with co-morbid mental and physical disorders should consult with a mental health professional to explore coping strategies and interventions.

What are the most common mental health issues caused by medical conditions?

One of the most common mental health issues caused by medical conditions is depression. Oftentimes, those diagnosed with chronic illnesses develop depression. Depression can also appear at higher rates in those with diabetes, as can anxiety.

Sometimes mental health issues are triggered by hormonal or chemical imbalances. Pregnant women, for example, can experience mental health issues. Those with deficits in the hypothalamic pituitary axis and the faulty hormone regulation that results also have higher rates of depression and, in some cases, anxiety.

All of this is to say that identifying or ruling out physical triggers of mental illness is an essential part of the diagnostic process. When working with a patient to determine the cause of mental health symptoms, doctors may run differential diagnoses in order to navigate the links between a patient’s physical and mental health.

How therapists & psychiatrists can help medical related mental health conditions

Treating medical-related mental health conditions begins with treating the underlying medical condition. Once the underlying medical condition is addressed, a psychiatrist or therapist can begin treating the related mental health conditions. As with any mental health disorder, doctors treat these conditions with therapy, medication, lifestyle recommendations or a combination of those.

When medication is involved in the treatment of a mental health condition, ongoing medication management is essential. A psychiatrist requires a full list of all medications used to address physical ailments in a patient before she can prescribe medication.

Lifestyle changes can also help patients. Incorporating stress-reducing activities such as meditation, for example, can help mental health. Finally, psychotherapy can help address medically-related mental health disorders by allowing the patient to build new coping mechanisms and identify negative behaviors.