Neglecting Emotional Health Can Lead to Physical Symptoms
Have you ever been to see your doctor about a recently developing medical condition only to have him or her ask questions relating to your emotional state? While such questions were not necessarily routine in previous generations, they are becoming increasingly more so as the medical community learns more about how emotional health affects physical health.
Emotional health is especially important to naturopaths who prefer a more holistic approach to healthcare. We have come to understand that a person’s emotions, psychology, and physiology all work together to dictate overall health – for good and bad. We now know that neglecting one’s emotional health can lead to very definite physical symptoms or, worse yet, actual physiological problems.
For example, we know that prolonged periods of high stress can be a contributing factor in developing hypertension. In turn, hypertension can be a contributing factor to certain kinds of heart disease. People who are genetically disposed to hypertension and heart disease can do a lot for their own health by avoiding unnecessary stress.
Physical Symptoms with No Physiological Cause
The average patient is well aware of how emotions can create physiological problems like hypertension. But what about those symptoms that seem to have no physiological cause? To illustrate how possible this is, let’s talk about something known as conversion disorder. This disorder is an extreme example of emotional problems causing physical symptoms, but it occurs often enough that it warrants further discussion.
The clinical definition of conversion disorder offered by the Mayo Clinic is: “a condition in which you show psychological stress in physical ways.” Though this is a rather simplistic explanation, it serves the point for our discussion. Conversion disorder is a disorder in which significant amounts of stress cause physical symptoms that are not explained in any other way. Some clinicians have described it as a scenario in which the brain is so filled with stress that it has no other outlet but to present physical symptoms elsewhere in the body.
Conversion disorder can cause:
- tremors in the arms or legs
- weakness and/or paralysis
- seizures and/or convulsions
- loss of balance
- abnormal gait, difficulty walking.
Because conversion disorder is associated with excessive stress, the best way to treat patients without drugs is to teach them how to control emotions. This can include developing stress outlets as a means of dealing with emotional overload.
Happier People Are Healthier People
As previously mentioned, conversion disorder is an extreme example of how poor emotional health can lead to poor physical health. But a general rule still applies across the board: happier people tend to be healthier people. Those with a more positive outlook on life tend to experience fewer maladies. When they do get sick or experience injury, they tend to recover more quickly and thoroughly.
The link between happiness and good health is easily seen in assisted-living facilities where program directors work hard to keep residents active and engaged. When residents are allowed to sit in their rooms by themselves, with nothing to do and no purpose for getting up in the morning, physical health tends to deteriorate rapidly.
We know that emotional health has a very definite impact on physical health. As naturopaths, we work with our patients to identify emotional health issues so they can be addressed before they impact physical health too greatly. Because of the results we have seen, doctors practicing more traditional Western medicine are also getting on board. That’s good for everyone.