The Psychological Factors Affecting Medical Conditions

psychological factors affecting mental health

If you are struggling with mental illness, or trying to help someone you love get his or her mental health back on track, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless array of treatment options. Even more stressful can be figuring out how to cover the costs of trying multiple medications while attending therapy or perhaps even contemplating hospitalization. Mental illnesses are real health issues, which means you can't treat them with lifestyle changes alone. In conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, though, your treatment options will work more effectively and you'll see more rapid change.

Exercise and Activity Level

You've probably heard a thousand times that you need to exercise, but here's one more reason: Exercise doesn't just control your weight and protect your physical health. It also offers protective benefits to your mental health. Exercise can be so effective at treating mental health problems that some studies show it to be as effective as popular antidepressants. Exercise can also help reduce muscle pain, making it an ideal choice for people who feel limited by pain or mobility challenges.

There's no “magic” amount of exercise that will cure mental health challenges. Instead, the key is to stay moving as much as possible. When an option, walk to destinations instead of driving. Take your dog for a walk. Go for a leisurely bike ride. Take stairs instead of elevators. Exercise frequently offers a chance to spend some time outside which can, in its own right, improve your mood.

Almost half of people with mental illness are smokers. For years, therapists thought that smoking might help to take the edge off of mental health symptoms, so they frequently didn't pressure their clients to quit. We know better now, though. While quitting can be challenging—and may even yield a temporary downturn in mental health—research has repeatedly shown that quitting smoking yields benefits to mental health, often in just a few weeks. When you smoke, you take in a variety of toxins, and it may be that many of those toxins contribute to mood problems. Moreover, the physical health problems caused by smoking—heart disease, coughing, emphysema, frequent colds, difficulty exercising—can lead to mood problems and mental health challenges. Quitting may be one of the best things you do for your mental health.

Your diet directly affects your physical health, and your physical health can undermine your mental health. Unhealthy choices such as excess processed foods, sweets, and foods with a low nutrient value, then, can all undermine mental health. Want to feel better? Research is increasingly showing that healthy fats such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, as well as the fat found in fruits such as avocados, can boost brain power and improve mood. And for those with a sweet tooth, dark chocolate is a much healthier way to indulge.

Physical Health

Your mind and body aren't easily separated. If you struggle with physical health conditions, you're at an increased risk of mental health problems. Even something as minor as a toothache or bladder infection can temporarily undermine your ability to manage stress, so prompt medical care for physical issues is always a wise choice. In some cases, mental health problems may be directly caused by physical health issues. Endocrine system disorders, for example, can lead to depression, anxiety, and problems with regulating your sleep cycle. If psychiatric drugs aren't working, consider getting blood work so you can learn if a medical condition is undermining your mental health.


An unhealthy family environment that includes any kind of abuse, whether physical, sexual, or psychological, can make it nearly impossible to achieve sound mental health. The aftereffects of abuse can linger for years, and some abuse victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder. If you're being abused, the first step is finding a way out. And if you have a history of abuse, don't deal with it alone. Seek treatment so you can move on with your life.