The Mind and Body Connection

Our minds and bodies are powerful. These two systems link together and impact how you feel. Being mentally and physically healthy can help you have a better quality of life and better outcomes.

Treatments that target both mind and body help both mental and physical health. This type of treatment approach involves spirituality, social relationships and supports, activities, and thinking patterns to help you manage both mental and physical well-being.

Exercise, yoga, relaxation and meditation are holistic treatments that positively impact both mind and the body and improve your health. Holistic treatments are helpful interventions that help management of chronic pain, anxiety and high-blood pressure.

More resources: Mind-body therapies

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Most people worry occasionally about stressful situations like deadlines, speaking in front of a group or money troubles. Feeling anxious occasionally allows your body to energize to deal with stress or respond in a dangerous situation by running away or fighting back.

Anxiety that impacts your quality of life so that you are feeling overwhelmed and struggle with sleeping, thinking or enjoying activities for a long period of time should be evaluated. 

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – Daily anxiety and worry over a six-month period resulting in some of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling tired
  • Lack of concentration
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Your mind goes blank
  • Muscle aches and soreness
  • Trouble sleeping

Panic Disorder – Having an intense feeling of fear over a short period of time that is triggered by a situation or an object or just occurs unexpectedly. These panic attacks happen over and over, and people often wonder when the next one might occur.

  • Panic attack symptoms include:
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Shortness of breath or choking
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Feeling out of control

Phobias – Being afraid of an object or situation like clowns or flying. This makes a person feel afraid or anxious right away. A child might cry or hold on to a parent. This would happen for at least six months and make the person with the phobia try to avoid the object or situation even if it takes a lot of effort or extra steps to avoid.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – Frequent thoughts that cause anxiety and behaviors that reduce the anxiety but take up a lot of time and energy and must be acted upon to help a person feel better. (These behaviors sometimes include handwashing and checking things around the house like switches and locks.)

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Reliving the horror

Sometimes when a person experiences violence, the threat of death, or sees violence happen to others, they begin to have unwanted thoughts, dreams, and experiences of the event.

This could have been caused by:

  • Combat
  • Sexual or physical abuse as a child
  • Terrorist attack
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Serious accidents, like a car crash
  • Natural disasters, like a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood or earthquake

Children also can have trauma and stress related disorders. Symptoms of trauma may not show up for months, even years, after the traumatic event. If you or your child have any of these symptoms, see your provider.

Symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Feeling the same fear you felt when the event happened may occur even though it is now a memory. Sounds, places or smells can cause your heart to race and your body to breaks out in a sweat. 

Avoiding places and things

Trauma can cause a person to avoid people, places and things that remind them of the traumatic event. Crowded spaces (like shopping malls), or an intersection or part of town are examples. A person may also feel numb and stay away from family and friends.

On high alert

A person with PTSD may be “on edge” all the time. They may scare easily and feel annoyed. These feelings can cause stress and anger. It may prevent a person from concentrating, sleeping, eating or enjoying life.

Other symptoms are:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Depression
  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Pain or other symptoms
  • Problems finding work
  • Problems with relationships, including divorce

Ways to treat PTSD

There are different ways to treat PTSD. The most effective treatments are:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) - teaches you to understand how trauma changed your thoughts and feelings.
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy – focuses on talking about the trauma until memories no longer upset you. It allows you to visit experiences and places with help from a provider so that you are safe and can start to manage your feelings of fear from the trauma.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) focuses on light, sound or hand movement while talking about the trauma in order to reprogram the brain.

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A pattern of behavior where a person is inattentive, overactive, and/or impulsive that has a negative impact on life events like school, work, or relationships for at least six months and was noticed before age 12. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects 3 to 10 percent of children today. Children with ADHD symptoms could have a hard time getting organized, following directions, staying focused or completing tasks on time.

A doctor can talk to you about symptoms and help with a treatment plan. Medications, special diets and mind-body treatments may help with ADHD symptoms and improve ability to pay attention at work and school and help with social relationships. There’s a 60 percent chance that adults will continue to have ADHD symptoms after childhood.

It might be genetic

ADHD tends to run in families, and many adults that have it don’t even know they do. If you —or any of your family members— are easily distracted, fidgety and at times reckless, you may want to take this screening quiz.

Talk to your doctor

If your child has ADHD, talk to your doctor. Ask about options for treatments besides medications such as special diets and biofeedback (helps the brain relax and focus)

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There are many levels of autism. Autism can range from gifted (or very bright) to severe (or unresponsive). That is why it is referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). And while the symptoms may be different for each child, the brain of an autistic child is different from that of “average” children, so the way they respond to things may also be different.

Autistic children may: 

  • Prefer to be alone
  • Not be able to speak or express what they want to say
  • Not act like most children their own age
  • Not like touching or hugging people
  • Not be able to make eye contact
  • Prefer routines
  • Like to repeat words, activities and certain movements
  • React strongly to certain sounds or noises
  • Not be able to show feelings like joy or happiness
  • Not understand when someone is angry or in pain
  • Not answer when their name is called
  • Not be able to point to something
  • Speak using pictures or sign language

It is important to have your child tested as soon as you notice any of these differences. Today, there are many tools and technologies available for schools and for the home that can help your child grow and learn in a way that works for them. It may take more effort for the whole family, but if you keep trying, the rewards could be huge. All children have talents. Tap into your child’s talent and use it to teach them about those things they find difficult.

And see your doctor about the different treatments available for autism. They may include counseling, medication, and ways to learn how to deal with their struggles.

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Bipolar disorder is also called manic depression. A person can go from being very happy and confident (manic) to being very sad (depression) in a short amount of time.

Bipolar disorder can be confused with depression. Symptoms include:

  • The happy energized state lasts at least a week. 
  • You experience at least three of the symptoms before seeing your doctor so you can tell him exactly what you went through.
    • Hard time sleeping
    • Talked a lot
    • Came up with lots and lots of ideas
    • Couldn’t focus
    • Worked on a number of projects at the same time
    • Did things that were fun but risky (spending money, diving off bridges, using drugs, etc.)  After which, you felt very depressed.

There are four types of bipolar disorders. Find out more from the National Institute of Mental Health

  • Dementia is used to describe a number of symptoms related to the loss of memory and thinking ability that prevents you from doing everyday things.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It affects 60 to 80 percent of those with dementia.
  • Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. It normally follows a stroke.

There are some medical conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia. The good news is that some of these conditions can be treated successfully by a provider. One thing to keep in mind is that, while it is natural to forget a bit more as we age, serious loss of memory and ability to think clearly is not normal.

Facts about depression

  • Almost 1 in 10 American adults report depression each year.
  • About 11 percent of teenagers will suffer from major depression at least once before they become adults.

Is your child or teen depressed?

If he or she has been showing at least three of these signs, you should schedule a visit with a doctor. 

  • Is sad, teary or crying all the time
  • Not interested in usual activities or sports
  • Feels hopeless
  • Is always bored and has low energy
  • Doesn’t talk much and keeps to themselves
  • Doesn’t like themselves very much and feels guilt
  • Is very touchy about rejection or failure
  • Is more angry than usual
  • Has trouble with friends and family
  • Complains of headaches and stomachaches often
  • Is not going to school or is not doing as well as usual in school
  • Can’t focus
  • Eats or sleeps a lot more or a lot less than usual
  • Talks about running away from home or does it 
  • Thinks or talks about suicide

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When pain gets in the way

Have you had any pain lately? If so, it’s no surprise. You see, pain is the number one reason Americans visit their doctor. Pain affects more people than diabetes, heart disease and cancer put together and Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability.

There are two types of pain:

    • Acute pain – caused by a specific disease or injury. Acute pain will go away when the disease is cured or the injury is healed.
    • Chronic pain – doesn’t end when the disease is cured or the injury is healed. It is long-term and may be caused by the mind more than the body.

Treatment for pain

The treatment for your pain will depend on the type of pain you have. For acute pain, your doctor will prescribe something to deal with the disease or injury. For chronic pain, your doctor may have to find different treatments. He may prescribe medications, psychotherapy and other therapies. Besides pain medications (which can cause addiction), there are a number of other ways to treat pain. These include:

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture 
  • Relaxation
  • Electrical nerve stimulation (called TENS)

Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for your pain.

Ten tips for those with chronic pain:

  • Get help from someone who understands chronic pain
  • Get in touch with your feelings
  • Your pain is not all in your head. How you think about it, though, makes a difference in how you feel
  • Learn to relax and enjoy the moment. When you are tense, the pain gets worse
  • Stay as active as possible. Try to remain flexible and strong so you can feel good about yourself
  • Set goals you can keep and chart your progress toward them
  • Remember that when you’re in pain, your whole family feels it
  • Talk to others that have similar problems so you won’t feel alone
  • Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel
  • Help yourself

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After having a baby, many women have mood swings. One minute they feel happy, the next minute they start to cry. They may feel a little depressed or have a hard time concentrating. They could lose their appetite or find that they can't sleep well even when the baby is asleep. These symptoms usually start about 3 to 4 days after delivery and may last several days.

If you're a new mother and have any of these symptoms, you have what are called the baby blues. The baby blues are considered a normal part of early motherhood. It usually goes away within 10 days after delivery.

Some women have more severe symptoms of the baby blues or symptoms that last longer than a few days. This is called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is an illness, like diabetes or heart disease.

Signs of postpartum depression include:

  • Feeling sad or down often
  • Frequent crying or tearfulness
  • Feeling restless, irritable or anxious
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life
  • Loss of appetite
  • Less energy and motivation to do things
  • Difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep or sleeping more than usual
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless or guilty
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Feeling like life isn't worth living
  • Showing little interest in your baby

Many women get depressed right after childbirth. Some women don't begin to feel depressed until several weeks or months later. Depression that occurs within 6 months of childbirth may be postpartum depression. Postpartum depression does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. Postpartum depression does not occur because of something a mother does or does not do.

A health care provider can diagnose a woman with postpartum depression. A woman who experiences any of these symptoms should see a health care provider right away. Counseling and medication are the most common treatments.

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The symptoms of schizophrenia usually start in the late teens and early 20s, and can be seen as:

  • Thoughts or beliefs that aren’t based on reality
  • Repeated out-of-control movements
  • Difficulty speaking and showing feelings
  • Problems paying attention, remembering, or organizing things
  • Problems understanding information and making decisions

There is a high possibility that a person with schizophrenia may die an early death or commit suicide. That’s because they may be unable to get the medical care they need.

What we know about schizophrenia

Scientists are still learning about schizophrenia. So far they believe that:

  • Schizophrenia runs in families. But it’s not caused by only one gene from one parent. It is mostly a combination of genes that are different. These different genes can change the way the brain grows.
  • The brains of people with schizophrenia are different. They may have more fluid than most.
  • These differences in the brain may be there from before birth. But they are noticed only during puberty when the brain is on its last growth spurt.

If you know someone who shows symptoms of schizophrenia, try to get them to a doctor. There are many medications and other treatments available to help manage this disorder. There is no cure for schizophrenia, but a person can live a normal life with the right treatment.

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Drinking occasionally and taking prescription drugs as prescribed are acceptable.  Addiction is when you can’t control your use of alcohol or drugs or if you become dependent on a substance to cope with daily life. Addiction to alcohol and drugs can affect your school, work, even relationships.

Substance use disorder is a disease that affects both your mind and your body. It can cause depression, anxiety, memory loss and suicide as well as:

  • Heart problems
  • Strokes
  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Hepatitis
  • Lung disease
  • Kidney/liver failure
  • Sexually-transmitted diseases