We are complex beings – dynamic, multi-faceted creatures God breathed life into. He wants us to care for every part of this being He created. Body, soul, and spirit. Because mental health impacts and relates to everything we do.
During a challenging season of my life, I was diagnosed with IBS-C, subclinical hypothyroidism, and suspected endometriosis. The responses of those around me were kind and responsive:
"How can I help?"
"Are you getting treatment?"
Not only did these comments validate my experience, but the individuals expressed genuine concern and care. I felt heard, seen, and loved. A few months later, however, my growing anxiety was confirmed as high-functioning and generalized in-between cycles of depression. Yet when I told others about these mental struggles, I was shocked at their responses:
"It's all in your head. Once you take the focus off yourself, you'll feel better."
"You are too blessed to be stressed. Just stop worrying and be happy."
If mental and physical health issues are important, why are mental health conditions often dismissed or written off? In this article, I want to show you mental health matters as much as physical health. The mind and body are interconnected and can't truly be separated.
1. The mind and body are interconnected.
Though mind and body are interconnected, we often try to separate our minds from our bodies. We absolutely shouldn't. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes that our bodies have many parts but still form one body. And by design, we each need eyes, ears, and beating hearts to function properly. Your brain is also part of the body. It's one of the top five largest organs. And without a sound and functioning mind, your body can't work!
Paul's analogy explains that just as our physical bodies have many parts, the Church has many members that create a body of believers (each with their own gifts and talents). In the same way, just as a body of believers make up the Church, our earthly bodies are composed of body, mind, and spirit. And since God created value in each part, we can't separate them.
The American Heart Foundation (2021) says, "The mind, heart, and body are interconnected and interdependent." This mind-body connection means that both physical and mental health shape us. For example, the biochemistry behind our mind (including thoughts, genetics, and pre-dispositions) can contribute to our body (mood, emotions, how we tolerate stress and physical disorders we develop). But there isn't just a relationship between the mind and body. Research shows that individuals with untreated physical disorders are more likely to develop mental disorders. Let's discuss that next.
2. Individuals with untreated physical disorders are more likely to develop mental disorders.
When I was first diagnosed with IBS-C, my doctor told me it was from genetic anxiety and depression. While correlation doesn't always equal causation, those who suffer from gut issues like mine are three times more likely to develop depressive symptoms than those who don't. Women with endometriosis are also twice as likely to suffer from a mental health condition like anxiety or depression.
People with physical disorders are more likely to develop mental health problems (National Library of Medicine 2). Of course, many individuals suffer from mental health disorders and have no underlying physical issues. Still, in my case, doctors attributed the root cause of my physical condition to anxiety and depression. All this said, while this is an explanation that's been given, it may not be the whole story for me or the same for you.
3. Individuals with untreated mental disorders are more likely to develop physical disorders.
Did you know that individuals with chronic depression and anxiety are more likely to develop heart disease at an early age? Research suggests they may also suffer from brittle bones, diabetes, stroke, and pain. During my teen years, I experienced mild anxiety and depression. However, what started as a fear of failing tests or being unable to open my locker, quickly grew into larger issues. It wasn't until a decade later that I was diagnosed with the numerous physical conditions listed above, as well as clinical anxiety and depression.
When diagnosed with diabetes or cancer, they typically receive treatment quickly. The outcome can be fatal without the right medications, chemotherapy, or insulin. Why should mental health be any different? We must recognize that while physical disorders can appear on their own, individuals who suffer from mental disorders are at a higher risk of developing them (National Library of Medicine 1).
4. Prioritizing your mental health is essential to your overall well-being.
When we only care for one part of our bodies, we're forsaking the temple God has placed His spirit within. He desires us to care for the whole person: the physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual being. Learning to prioritize our mental health is essential to our overall health.
We are complex beings – dynamic, multi-faceted creatures God breathed life into. He wants us to care for every part of this being He created. Body, soul, and spirit. Because mental health impacts and relates to everything we do. Young adults often prioritize their physical or mental health, but both are important. Biological Psychiatry reports that the life expectancy of those diagnosed with mental and physical conditions can be reduced by 10-20 years (2023). It's time we start healing our mental health with a whole-body approach – and in doing so, nourish the body, soul, and spirit God's given us.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Ridofranz
Amber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.
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