Telehealth available in Idaho, Utah, and Oregon. Covered by most major insurances.

The Link between Chronic Diseases and Mental Health

mental health matters

The Link between Chronic Diseases and Mental Health


Chronic diseases and mental disorders can affect anyone, regardless of background, color, or age. Interestingly, people with chronic conditions are also often diagnosed with mental illness.

Chronic diseases are usually long-lasting and hardly ever go away completely. This life-long pain and debilitating experience often cause sadness and frustration in the patient, and they may feel guilty and worthless for being a burden to their loved ones.

Unfortunately, this can pave the way for depression and other mental health disorders.


A Bi-Lateral Relationship

Chronic diseases and mental illness share some common symptoms, such as irregular eating patterns and lack of energy.

But that's not all. For example, someone with a psychiatric condition may overeat, stay less active, and care less for their physical health. This may cause weight gain, increasing their risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular issues.


Major Chronic Diseases and Their Associated Psychiatric Disorders

Diabetes and Mental Health

People with diabetes are two times more likely to be diagnosed with mental illness than those without.

Notably, mental issues such as depression and schizophrenia impair the body's resistance to insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes.

On the other hand, people living with diabetes are at risk of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders because they're always worried about what to eat and what not to. This can be quite stressful. Even the changes in their blood sugar can trigger mood changes and fatigue. In addition, patients need to spend money on care and doctor's appointments. These burdens can lead to anxiety and extended feelings of hopelessness.


Cardiovascular Diseases and Mental Health

The connection between heart disease and mental health is two-directional. People with heart diseases are three times more likely to develop depression. Depression is also often diagnosed soon after a stroke. It can also make recovering after a heart attack more challenging by intensifying the pain. However, it's not a one-way relationship.

Smoking and alcohol use are leading risk factors for heart disease. Interestingly, alcohol and tobacco use are more prevalent among people with mental illness. While using these substances to feel better, patients predispose themselves to heart diseases.

Healthy lifestyle choices like physical exercise and proper diet can benefit people with either of these conditions.


Chronic Respiratory Disease and Psychiatric Disorder

People living with mental diseases are likely to smoke, which predisposes them to respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and asthma.

In short, about 75% of people with severe OCPD also live with anxiety or depression.

People with asthma are likely to get panic disorders and anxiety as they worry over sudden asthmatic attacks.


Cancer and Mental Health

Cancer is incurable and sometimes deadly. As a result, some people living with cancer may lose all hope in life and fall into major depression. Statistics show that about 8-24% of cancer patients also experience depression.

In reverse, people with schizophrenia have been found to have twice the risk of developing gallbladder and bowel cancers. These two diseases are often a result of the patient's diet.


Why This Information Matters

Many symptoms are common with both mental illness and chronic diseases, and it becomes difficult to tell apart. For example, a person battling depression may experience fatigue, loss of appetite, and insomnia. Someone with diabetes or heart disease may also experience the same thing.

When you treat only one condition, unaware of the existence of another chronic issue, the latter may spiral out of hand quickly and render treatment less effective.

If you live with a chronic disease or mental illness, getting a proper check-up quickly can help. This information is also crucial to enable medical practitioners to offer more holistic care to patients that may include medication and psychotherapy.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Depression and gut bacteria: how gut health affects your mood

Researchers have recently discovered how gut health can impact mental health. There is an intestinal immune cell that impacts the gut microbiota (total microorganism in the gut), which consequently affects brain functions associated with stress-induced beh

Children's mental health is declining: here's why

A new study suggests that the rise in mental health problems in school-aged children and teens is associated with a decline in opportunities for them to engage in independent play unsupervised by adults.

New Blood Test for Detecting Anxiety Discovered

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have developed a new blood test that can objectively determine a person's risk for developing anxiety, the severity of their current anxiety, and which therapies would work best for them.