When we feel sick, we schedule a doctor’s appointment. When we feel depressed or anxious, we schedule a session with a therapist or counselor. In a conventional health care system, it is typical to think about the treatment of mental and physical health as entirely separate entities. However, research has long shown a concrete connection between the mind and body. How we feel can physically affect our mental health, and mental conditions can often manifest into physical ailments. With nearly one in five U.S. adults — about 44 million people — experiencing mental illness each year, why aren’t both concepts of care integrated more often?
Overcoming the Limitations of Conventional Care
When it comes to treating mental health, conventional medicine largely limits itself to prescription drugs and cognitive behavioral therapy, which almost solely focuses on issues with the brain. Although both methods of treatment have concrete scientific advantages, only relying on these tools to address mental well-being can be ineffective at best or even harmful.
For instance, prescription medications, such as antidepressants, are being consumed at greater rates each year. As of 2020, more than 11 percent of Americans had at least one antidepressant prescription — a 4.6 percent increase from 2019. This exposes more people to a wide range of risks, including neuronal damage, developmental problems, bleeding, and stroke. While the benefits may outweigh the risks for some, others may prefer alternative treatments that simply aren’t being presented to them.
Therapy can impose a significant burden as well. According to some sources, the minimum out-of-pocket costs alone for therapy can be as much as $3,200 per year. This can place mental health treatment out of reach for many people. In fact, out of the 30 million Americans who do not receive the mental health care they need, 45 percent cite cost as a major obstacle.
In order to safely and effectively address the mental health needs of as many people as possible, a comprehensive approach to care may be more effective.
Integrating the Mind and Body for Better Care
Treating mental health in isolation ignores the inexorable link between physical and mental well-being. For instance, regular exercise has traditionally been known as a “mood booster,” and a growing body of research suggests improved physical fitness is strongly correlated with better brain health.
One study found that exercise lowers the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, and helps reduce the chance of stress-related conditions like high blood pressure and a compromised immune system. In another study conducted over seven years and involving over 150,000 participants, those with low levels of fitness and muscle strength had “98% higher odds of experiencing depression and 60% higher odds of experiencing anxiety.”
Inversely, many mental health issues can also manifest into physical conditions. Depression is correlated with a number of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis. And although 10 to 18 percent of the general population suffers from sleep conditions, upward of 50 to 80 percent of those with mental health issues have trouble sleeping.
Despite conventional thinking, for many, mental and physical health should not be treated separately. Instead, they should be integrated together for the best possible care.
Introducing a More Effective Model
The whole-body approach of Precision Health Care makes it a more effective and strategic model for helping patients achieve their definition of optimal health — both physically and mentally. By using the best aspects of conventional medicine, then building on top of this foundation with an integrative and functional approach to care, Precision Health Care gives providers the tools to explore a patient’s health from multiple perspectives. Instead of just treating the physical symptoms of a condition, the entire mind-body connection is taken into consideration in order to help promote the best possible long-term health.
What does this look like? Providers begin with a comprehensive consultation to fully understand a patient’s health status, including their medical and family history, lifestyle, and personal health objectives. During this discussion, if any mental health concerns are raised, the provider will work with the patient to address any immediate symptoms, as well as identify possible root-causes. They may discover a lack of regular exercise, a poor diet, or regular exposure to stress is affecting their health, both physically and mentally. In this case, they will work with the patient to develop a long-term plan for improving the patient’s overall health. Of course, if a mental health evaluation is necessary due to the safety of a patient, a provider will work with a patient on taking appropriate action.
Ultimately, this will look different for each person, depending on their unique health profile. However, as a necessary aspect of optimal health, the Precision Health Care approach will always prioritize the mind-body connection.
Interested in talking with one of our providers? Schedule a complimentary meet and greet with an Essential Health provider.