Missouri State University
Springfield - 91.1
Branson - 90.5
West Plains - 90.3
Mountain Grove - 88.7
Joplin - 98.9
Neosho - 103.7
Share |

It look's like you don't have Adobe Flash Player installed. Get it now.

Delving Into the Mind-Body Connection Part II

The mind can be a powerful influence on the rest of the body. Dr. Joe Hulgus, counseling professor at Missouri State University, says psychological well-being and physical well-being are so tightly interwoven that it’s hard to separate them.He gives an example…

"You're walking down the street at night, and you see a shadow, and, you know, it frightens you, and then your realize it's just a limb, ok, well, that's an interpretive error, but it does make a difference in terms of your physiological response. If you repeat that kind of cycle, over the course of time it can take a toll on you. That's part of what happens in post traumatic stress disorder and things like that."

Studies have shown that those with serious mental illness die, on average, 25 years younger than those without. One study showed that 60% of those premature deaths were from natural causes such as cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.Dr. Paul Thomlinson, a psychologist and vice-president of research and QA at Burrell Behavioral Health, says there are several reasons for that…

"We tend to think of it as, of course, they do tend to have co-morbid co-occurring physical illnesses that don't necessarily get treated in a timely way necessarily. Sometimes folks with a serious mental illness have a difficult time really being adherent with treatment programs when they do see medical professionals, so there's a little bit of that. There is sometimes poor monitoring of symptoms."

Burrell, CoxHealth and Oxford Health are collaborators on an in-home telemonitoring project with seriously mentally ill patients with serious physical illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. Symptoms are monitored on a daily basis…

"It's not for lack of trying, many time, of course, we have a lot of folks out there in the trenches really trying to make sure that folks are getting taken care of, but it's a tall order especially given the fact that that there are so many co-occurring conditions."

He says Burrell tries to get patients connected with a medical home as soon as possible, which he says improves their physical outcome.A study by Duke University researchers in 2007 found that the combination of heart disease, diabetes AND depression boosts a patient’s death risk by 20 to 30%...

"It's clear that the highest risk you can have for really dropping dead is being depressed."

Dr. Lance Luria is medical director for St. John’s Health and Wellness and executive director of the Integrative Medicine Program at St. Johns…

"There are people who have heart disease and are not depressed, and they do much better than people who are depressed and have heart disease."

He says mental illnesses, like depression, affect the entire body…

"The mind and the body are not separate, so to somebody is depressed and somehow that lurks just up in the skull is crazy. Whatever the neuropeptides are in your brain that are secreting chemicals like seratonin and dopamine, and there are receptor sites in the brain, they have the same receptor sites in all the cells of your body or at least most of them: your heart, your stomach, your intestines, your bone marrow. White cells actually can produce the same neuropeptides that the brain produces, so to say that this is a problem in the brain is missing it. When a person is depressed, their whole body responds to that."

Dr. Deborah Cox, a psychologist with Family Psychology of Springfield, says depression can affect sleep and eating. She says when people are struggling with mental illness such as depression, they need to take care of themselves. She encourages her clients who are dealing with emotional stress to get more sleep than they need and to get more exercise…

"Try to seek out something new and interesting as a form of exercise like bike riding if you don't normally do that, and allow yourself to experience a little bit more of that self-care."

In her practice, she teaches clients how to become aware of their physiology and ways to cope with stressful situations through body awareness exercises…

"There's a way in which we can slow down the heartbeat and slow down respiration and decrease the inflammatory response that's going on that's causing the stress response that hurts or that makes us panic or that keeps us from being able to function or concentrate."

And it’s not just negative events that can cause us stress. Dr. Hulgus says a study done by Holmes and Ray several years ago looked at what we would identify as stressful things but also at things that cause bring us joy—a new home, a marriage or the birth of a child. The study focused on the cumulative effects of stress…

"And what they found was from the research was that if you experienced a certain level of stress regardless of whether it was from these things that we usually consider hard or from the good things, that the cumulative amount would impact your health. They could predict with, I think, up to an 80% accuracy, whether you were likely to get ill in the next six months."

Dr. Paul Thomlinson says those whose emotional health is out of balance have weaker immune systems. At a time when influenza is starting to become a concern, it seems ironic, but he says the best way to improve your emotional well-being is to interact with other people and to try to help others.He also suggests eating right and getting enough rest. And he says to check out the self-help books that are available.Dr. Hulgus says self help can be one way of dealing with emotional issues—things like taking time off and practicing relaxation and meditation. Physical exercise, he says, can help tremendously as can a change of mind—finding new ways of looking at things...

"As hard as things can get, as bad as they can sometimes feel, there's hope. Things can change."

This story and others in our SOC series on Mental Illness are available at ksmu.org. For KSMU, I’m Michele Skalicky.