Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sick and down: How physical illness can affect mental health

I’ve been sick since last week. Not seriously ill, just a cold with a bad cough, but it makes me feel miserable.
What made it worse was that I took a couple of days of vacation to go along with the 4th of July holiday, so I was off work last Wednesday through Sunday, and felt bad for most of that time.
I woke up Thursday morning with a sore throat and it was down hill from there.
My sinuses were stopped up, then runny, then stopped up, then half and half. I sneezed. I coughed. My throat continued to hurt.
I self-treated the best I could with Tylenol, antihistamines, hot tea, lots of other fluids and as much rest as I could get.
I’m telling you this to illustrate my next point: I also felt down.
Being physically sick usually means my mood goes down.
At least part of the reason lies in what I feel like doing when I’m sick: nothing.
I have been so miserable that I haven’t felt like doing much reading, writing, drawing, exercising, cross-stitch, crocheting—many of the things I depend on to make me feel better.
I don’t feel like doing any of the things I listed as self-care measures in a post last week.
I don’t even feel like watching TV or playing games on my phone.
I did exercise last Thursday, but I haven’t since.
My sleep patterns have been messed up. Friday morning at 4 a.m., I was wide-awake. Saturday afternoon, I was dead to the world. The rest of the nights have been spent battling a cough.
I’ve learned two things. One is that my physical health has a direct impact on my mental health. The better I feel physically, the better able I am to help myself with my mental health.
And how I spend my time and my activity level are very important to my mental health. It’s important for me to read, to write, to think, to write some more. It’s important for me to move around, to use my body as well as my brain.
In his book Depression: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed (which I reviewed here), Lee H. Coleman Ph.D., ABPP writes about the importance of daily self-care in depression recovery: “When you’re recovering from depression, it’s especially important for you to have some routine in you life. This doesn’t mean having a boring, predictable lifestyle, but it does mean taking care of yourself by having a regular bedtime; consistent, healthy meals; and, ideally, a program of exercise” (p. 135).
I would agree.

How about you? When you are physically ill, does it adversely affect how you feel mentally?

20 comments:

  1. Oh, it sure does! Just like you, when I don't feel well, I am restless, but I also don't really feel like doing anything either. Very frustrating.

    I'm sorry you're feeling down (and sick). I'm sure the lack of sleep is not helping you either. I hope you feel better real soon. Take care. Hugs. : (

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    1. Thank you, Sunny! I appreciate your hugs . . . .

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  2. My heart goes out to you! I got sick while on vacation a couple weeks ago, and it sucks. I'm definitely improved, but wake up with a cough, like right now. . .Because part of my OCD is health anxiety, feeling physically ill can invoke all sorts of mental distress on top of just feeling crummy. What if the cough never goes away? What if it's serious? Should I go to the doctor? Am I a bad person for not going? etc. The mind and body are intimately connected. I did go for a walk yesterday for the first time in over a week, and I'm back in the studio making art, which is a relief.

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    1. One of my biggest problems is, should I go to the doctor? I can never decide if it is serious enough for a doctor visit. I am glad you're feeling better!

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  3. Oh, my dear Tina. I am so sorry you are so miserable. I just said a prayer for you.

    When I get sick, my anxiety and OCD shoot way up. My germ phobias are off the charts. I worry about being sick. I worry about missing work. I feel guilty for being sick. Ugh. You are right, being sick does have an impact upon mood and mental health.

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    1. Elizabeth, thank you for the prayer! I worry about a lot of stuff, too--about having to miss any work, should I go to the doctor, etc.

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  4. Tina, you're in my prayers. I challenge ANYONE not to get depressed over a summer cold - they're the worst! Feel better, dear.

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    1. Jean, thank you! Summer colds do seem worse.

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  5. Murphy's Law..if you're going to get sick, it will probably be during vacation :(.
    So sorry you aren't feeling well and I wish you a quick recovery....my physical health definitely affects my mental health, and I don't have OCD or depression. It's the not feeling well, and the not feeling up to doing any of the "usual" things that help make my life meaningful. But it's temporary, thankfully, and I'm sure you'll be back to yourself again soon. Feel Better!

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    1. Janet, I am depending on that--temporary!! Thank you.

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  6. Tina I'm so sorry your not feeling well, and that while you have been doing this blog anyway! Hope you feel better soon.
    I feel like doing absolutely nothing when I'm sick, just crawl into bed and hide from the rest of the world. Everything I have to do seems like a burden at those times.
    I hope you soon will be your old self again!

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    1. Thank you, Klaaske, I appreciate your kind words!

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  7. That is a big yes to does my physical health affect my mental health. I don't even have to be sick to have it affect it. Just the hot weather alone has made me feel like not doing things. I told my husband it may as well be winter because I feel just as stuck in the house with the high heat temps. I totally forced myself outside to take a walk and then weed the gardens even though I was sweating so bad it would run into my eyes and sting them. I need physical activity to feel good. If I don't, I get unbelievable anxiety and it fuels the ole OCD of course. UGH!

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    1. Krystal, that is a good point--we don't have to be sick, just be uncomfortable physically and it can affect us in other ways.

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  8. I hope you feel better soon. That sounds miserable. I usually have to just keep trucking when I'm sick, due to the little ones. If it gets bad enough, I'll at least head to the doctor though.

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    1. Lisa, thank you! I've had to keep on working yesterday and today, though I am going to the doctor this afternoon. I hope she can help!

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  9. My physical health definitely plays a part in my mood and motivation. When I'm fit, I'm happy, motivated and ready to take on the world. When I've taken time off or been injured, I've been grumpy, listless and more likely to eat badly and not take care of myself. I know I'm a much better person when I'm active and moving so I try to drag myself out the door, even on days when I might not feel like it. My young daughter (and now my puppy) help in that department.

    I hope you feel better soon, Tina. You'll get through this and once you start exercising again, your reward will be how much better you feel just from moving your body and getting some fresh air. I'm impressed that you've been blogging when you've been feeling crummy.

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    1. Thank you, Becky. Yes, I will feel better--just have to get over this. My blogging was helped because I had written a little ahead, before I felt so bad.

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  10. I am so sorry for your illness, and hope for a quick recovery. I think one of the worst kinds of sick is when you're not running a fever so you can't stay home and have to handle all your regular responsibilities, but it feels just absolutely miserable.

    Ohmygoodness, when I'm sick it's like the world is coming to an end. I have such a difficult time putting things in perspective when I'm not feeling well. Unfortunately for those close to me, I also get pretty irritable. :)

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    1. Thank you! It would have been nice to stay home, but I had so much work at work to do. And I haven't had a fever, so ...

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