Why Understanding the Mind-Body Connection is Important
The mind-body connection, whether we're thinking about it from a mental health or physical health/chronic pain & illness perspective, is incredibly important. There used to a be a thinking among the healthcare community that the two entities should be treated separately, and yet research over the past 30 years has increasingly supported that they are not separate at all, but part of one integrated system. I came across a post in a Facebook group once in which the poster didn't believe that pain was perception - likely thinking that meant it was a "mental health" thing to have chronic pain and not a physical one. The truth is, it's both (and our brain controls everything in our bodies, physical and mental).
We look at health (which I'll be using from here on out to talk about both mental and physical health) from a biopsychosocial perspective. Breaking it down, it means there are biological components, psychological components, and social impacts on our health. Biological components include:
any diagnosed physical health issues
Psychological components include:
Social components include:
And that's not even a comprehensive list. What's interesting is the research that shows that trauma (both big T and little t) is incredibly prevalent in people with chronic pain and illness. There is also a huge overlap with anxiety and depression in chronic pain and illness as well.
What does this all mean? Well, how I see it as both a therapist and a person with lived experience, is that we need to take care of all components of our health. Seeing your doctor and any specialists regularly is important, as is taking medications (or supplements) that are prescribed. Equally important is seeing a therapist/counsellor and addressing the psychosocial components of your life. It is definitely possible to feel better. Remember that change is slow, and worth the effort.