Written By: Sarah Russ, LCSW-C
Did you know that May 2022 was Mental Health Awareness Month? May gave us an opportunity to shine a light on the importance of attending to our mental well-being just as much as we give to our physical well-being. As a community, it allowed us to do a collective “self-check” and appraise where we’d need support and help when it comes to personal, family, and career-related interactions. Whether you left the month thinking about dipping your toe in or deciding to take the full plunge into self-awareness and pattern changes, I think that having thirty days of campaign messages to remind us that our mental health is important may have helped a bit.
While I’m clearly a mental health advocate, I’m also keenly aware of the critical link between our physical health and mental health.
Have you ever wondered why your therapist referred you to your primary care doctor???
During my moment with you this month I wanted to focus on how medical issues can actually mimic, mirror or manifest as mental health discomfort. Yes, it’s all connected. As mental health practitioners, we listen for signs and symptoms that could have a biological cause, especially when our psychological interventions may not be working. I think a good way to give an understanding of this would be to share a few medical conditions or diagnoses that can impact or manifest as mental distress or unhealthy behaviors.
- Vitamin D deficiency, this mineral is essential to our bodies. It aids our immune system, builds our bones, and gives us energy. Vitamin D deficiency can show up as fatigue and low mood. Did you know that most Black folk in the USA are vitamin D deficient? Read more here https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.
- Diabetes and low blood sugar can produce feelings of tiredness, irritability, along with unexplained changes in weight.These symptoms are similar to depressive and mood disorders. Here is a link for additional information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
- Anemia is the lack of red blood cells in our body which cause a reduction of oxygen to our organs. The fatigue and weakness experienced can mirror symptoms of depression as well. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
- Hypothyroidism is an endocrine disorder in which hormones released from the thyroid gland are suppressed. This causes low metabolism resulting in weight gain. Other symptoms for this medical condition are unusual nervousness, anxiety, depression or rapid shifts in mood similar to what is seen in bipolar disorders or some personality disorders. Read more here, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
- Epileptic seizures could be the result of a genetic disorder or an acquired brain injury such as head trauma or a stroke. This medical condition frequently presents itself with changes in mood, behavior, and thought processes. Read more here, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
- Traumatic Brain Injury [TBI] is when the head is impacted by blunt force. The effects of this occurrence may show up as depression, apathy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, irritability, agitation, temper outbursts, aggression, psychosis, or mania. Click the link for more information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
You will likely notice the trend above where there are many emotional symptoms that may have a biological root cause and knowing this will help you, your therapist, and your doctor to address it.
Now you may ask, “What would be the next steps?” That is a question asked by someone who really cares about their health! I’d say, schedule an appointment with your medical provider for a comprehensive physical, including blood work. Make written notes of your symptoms before your appointment so you don’t have to try and remember them on the spot. During your appointment, have a conversation with your provider and share your observations. Ask for blood work and be prepared to get specific. Many people ask for your Iron, vitamin D, Magnesium, and other mineral levels to be tested. Tailor your request to your health needs. Develop a collaborative plan of next steps. Be sure to share the updates with your therapist at your next appointment. There may also be the possibility for a care coordination between your medical provider and therapist, with your written consent, to ensure they are coordinating in your care. Remember, you are in charge of your mental and physical health. Although, nationally we focused on mental health last month, it is better if you find time to attend to your mental and physical health every single day.
Be well, Strong Friends!
Sarah Russ, LICSW/LCSW-C