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Body and Soul are interacting

The better we feel, the healthier we are!

Depression - Body and Soul are interacting
Depression - Body and Soul are interacting | ©: alephnull - Fotolia

Sometimes, people suffer physical as well as emotional without specialists ever finding a cause. However, this ordeal would not be necessary if the connection between the mind and the body had greater consideration in the diagnosis and treatment. A recent study by the University of Basel showed that not only mental problems could influence the physical wellbeing. Likewise, physical problems can influence your mental wellbeing.

The reason why by most physicians body and mind are considered to be separate entities without ever exploring the connection goes back to René Descartes. He postulated the separation of body and mind back in the 17th century. The physician Thomas Maibaum criticised this approach at the Medical Association in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for education and training. He stated: “Our entire training is wrong.” Young doctors learn only briefly about the human psyche which leads, that later in their practice the only look for physical causes. However, 20 % of all General Practitioners do not find any organic causes in their patients’ ailments. In average, the client has to put up with 6 years of suffering, until they are treated psychosomatically. There is a lot of stress put on those clients because often they get the wrong medications and have to undergo examinations they don’t need. – On the other hand, this places an enormous burden on the health care system.

Possible triggers for physical ailments

Relationship problems, stress at work as well as mental health issues can influence the physical wellbeing of people. And that starts already in the womb: If a mother-to-be experienced a lot of stress, the body releases the stress hormone Cortisol. Through the placenta, this stress hormone gets into the body of the unborn where it changes its Immune System. As a result, those people are more likely to suffer from asthma and allergies. The Immune System, when exposed to further stress in the person’s everyday life will be compromised once again. An study, conducted in the USA found, that nursing people suffering from Alzheimer’s is a mentally tasking job. The study observed that those carers are more often sick, then people in other professions. The interplay of body and mind can be clearly observed in wound healing process: People who are under stress, the wound healing will take longer than in other people.

When the influence of the psyche becomes life threatening

In extreme cases, mental and emotional stress can endanger somebody’s life. Experts estimate that 80 % of all heart attacks are caused by stress. The reason why: If the person is under stress, the body releases the hormones Adrenalin and Cortisol. This causes the heart to beat faster and pump with more pressure. This in time can lead to chronic high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, which are the main cause of a heart attack. However, other risk factors come into play here as well. Such as smoking, poor diet and obesity.

However, mental health issues might be even more dangerous. Christoph Herrmann-Lingen from the Center for Psychosocial Medicine, University of Goettingen, states, that “depression has a similar strong influence on the heart as smoking.” Even an underlying depression can be as dangerous as passive smoking.

However, it has to be said, that a physical ailment on its own could not trigger a heart attack. “But it can accelerate this to happen.” Depression contains all the factors which favour a heart attack. And lastly, a person suffering from depression has fewer chances to survive a heart attack.

A people suffering: Back Pain

80 % of all Germans suffer at one point in their lives from temporarily back pain. The interesting thing, however, is, that no physical cause can be determined. The reasons, however, might be: Stress, conflict or depression; and they all can intensify the pain as well. If you follow up with those patients, you will find, that the temporary pain can turn into a suffering for many years to come. The “Back Centre” of Berlin took notice of this, and psychotherapy accompanies every back therapy.

When the body influences the soul

Regarding Diabetes, it is already proven, that there is an interplay between soul and body. Diabetes can be the consequence of depression, while at the other side, Diabetes patients are much more likely to develop depression.

However, there are other physical ailments, which impact on the psyche as well. The suspected diagnosis reach from depression to borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia. Ultimately, after years it became obvious, that the trigger of those ailments is a hereditary metabolic disorder porphyria.

Erich Kasten, the professor of psychology at the University of Göttingen, observed several cases as such. If there are no mental health issues determined, then he sends the patient to a GP for a blood panel. It is not unknown to, indeed, find organic causes. For example, this could be a underactive thyroid or a tooth root infection, which are causing the psychological symptoms.

A study confirms the link

Researchers from the University of Basel analysed data from 6,483 young people from the US between 13 and 18.

They found, that strikingly often a certain disease develops after a certain mental disorder. For example, after an anxiety disorder, many people suffer from a skin disease. Depression is often followed by common digestive disorders or arthritis. However, they also found out, that a mental disorder can follow a physical disorder.

Researchers found, that the trigger for heart diseases more often than not is an anxiety disorder. “And even more. The researcher found that epilepsy carries a higher risk for eating disorders. A phenomenon, which so far, was only reported by patients themselves. This suggests that the first signs of epilepsy can potentially be seen in the context of eating disorders”, says Marion Tegethoff from the psychology department. This could mean that for the future mental health disorders can be tied in with the right therapy and tailored for the respective personal need.

What can those study results tell us about the observation and work with children and young people in general?

On summer camps and youth work alike we see kids all of a sudden to get a stomach ache, headache or even vomiting. Of course, this could be a simple stomach upset or a cold. However, the underlying causes could be such as homesickness and psychological stress (e.g.: bullying), which cause the physical discomfort.

At school, you can see that again and again. Fear of exams can lead to a cold (fever, cough, hoarseness, sweats,) or severe headaches. In those cases, the cause in more mentally related than physical.

I am sure, one or the other could observe such a phenomenon in oneself. All of sudden, out of the blue, you get sick and stay in bed with high temperature for a few days. Maybe there was stress at work after all - at the same time.

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