Overeating your feelings because of daily stress? Or perhaps you have the tendency to light a cigarette when you feel restless at night. Some of us may resort to getting drunk on a daily basis to wash away uneasy feelings. These unhealthy lifestyle habits are often the trigger for nasty lifestyle diseases. Lifestyle diseases include heart disease, stroke, obesity, type II diabetes, etc., and are typically caused by prolonged negative and unhealthy habits, and resulting lack of a healthy lifestyle.
While lifestyle diseases (a physical disorder) and mental illness (a psychological disorder) may seem completely different, they are actually intricately connected in their onset. Furthermore, both are A mental disorder may cause a change in lifestyle, eventually triggering a lifestyle disease. Conversely, the presence of a lifestyle disease may affect one’s psyche, resulting in psychological duress. The answer to the question of “which came first: the chicken or the egg?” may differ on a case-by-case basis, but one thing for certain is that mental illnesses and lifestyle disorders are very closely connected. As such, a healthy lifestyle becomes increasingly important in maintaining longterm physical and mental wellness.
Psychological Disorders Connected to Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
The following are only some examples of mental disorders, but many are often deeply connected to one’s lifestyle habits.
Depression is a psychological illness that causes a significant decrease in all motivation. While this disease can be genetically inherited and triggered by individual personalities or external factors, it can also be caused by a physical ailment. Studies have shown that difficulties or unpleasant symptoms in our daily life (including heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure, headaches, etc…) can increase the risk of developing depression by about 150~200%.
2. Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is a mental condition that often occurs in conjunction with depression. The symptoms of a panic attack includes heart palpitations and severe anxiety, accompanied by intense physical symptoms. Many often suffer from “anticipatory anxiety”(the fear of not knowing when an attack may occur), and “agoraphobia” (the fear of the outdoors). These fears can cause significant disruptions in our lives. The onset of a panic attack is often associated with taking large doses of caffeine to prevent drowsiness while working long hours. The disorder commonly occurs in adults at peak working age.
3. Sleep Disorders
Adequate rest plays a crucial part in the treatment of mental disorders. Sleep plays a big role in quality rest. Since sleep disorders often occur as a precursor to many diseases, chronic lack of sleep or insomnia may be an indication that there is underlying illness.
Dementia is often thought as a condition strictly associated with the elderly, but it can also occur in people under the age of 65. It is often triggered by strokes, and irregular or unhealthy lifestyle habits can be a contributing factor in the cause.
Unhealthy Lifestyle Diseases in Relation to Mental Conditions
Now, let’s look at lifestyle diseases and how they relate to mental disorders.
1. Diabetes (Type II)
10% of diabetics are found to have major depression, while at least 30% have some symptoms of depression. Patients diagnosed with diabetes are firstly mentally upset at the revelation and feel a great shock at the loss of their health, potentially becoming a catalyst for a decline in healthy lifestyle habits. Treatment is long term and many factors can take a toll on a diabetic patient, including necessary lifestyle modifications, financial burdens of taking time off from work, and the burden on their families.
It is well-known that obesity can trigger a myriad of diseases and gradual decline in healthy lifestyle. The loss of motivation resulting from mental disorders can lead to oversleeping and overeating, causing unintended weight gain. Some individuals may also experience weight gain through prescription medications.
3. High Blood Pressure
When a person suffers from a mental disorder, their stress tolerance tends to become lower, leading to more frequent drinking, smoking, and consumption of caffeine, amongst other lapses in typically healthy lifestyle habits. As a result, increased blood pressure may be observed.
What’s the Solution?
As we have seen, mental conditions and lifestyle diseases are intricately connected. However, in order to prevent both, the important first step is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Of all the lifestyle habits that lead to disease, smoking and drinking habits are said to be the two most harmful. First of all, it is vital to look closely at these two habits and if you are dependent on either of them, it’s important to break the chain.
Moreover, moderate exercise, eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods, being in touch with nature, and building good human relationships are all things that are generally considered good for a sustainably healthy lifestyle. These positive habits seem to be effective against both lifestyle-related diseases and mental disorders. It’s easy to think, “I don’t know if it really works,” “It’s a hassle,” or “I don’t have time for that in my daily life,” but it’s important to try including these activities in our lives.
We can easily get stuck in a vicious cycle when one disease triggers another. For starters, try going on a short walk, try cutting back on drinking, or really anything that’s doable within your means. It’s never too late to start living a healthy lifestyle. The moment we acknowledge is the moment to start living a healthy lifestyle!
Nukariya, K. (2014). Lifestyle-related Disease and Mental Health. Japanese journal of occupational medicine and traumatology, 62, 316─321.