In our final post of September we’ll be discussing the third of our three health related topics – emotional health. If you missed any of the first three topics (overview, physical and mental), we invite you to catch up.
Emotional health has to do with our ability to appropriately express and manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The status of our health is very much like a tripod where all three legs are needed for support. Similarly, if one of these three health factors is out of sync, it can affect the whole package. Additionally, it is important to remember that a lot of these disorders, illnesses and problems can bleed over into mental and physical health as well since they are all interconnected.
The types of emotional health we’ll be focusing on are depression, stress and anxiety, eating disorders, and mood disorders.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines depression as “a common but serious mood disorder, causing severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think and handle daily activities such as sleeping, eating or working.” It is currently believed that depression is “caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors.”
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), “major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.” DBSA lists a number of interesting statistics about depression including the economic impact of depression and suicide rates from depression.
Depression is reported to be the cause of “over two-thirds of the 30,000 reported suicides in the U.S. each year.” Suicide is a problem that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves because it is widely accepted that reporting on suicide will lead to suicide imitation. Additionally, homicides are reported on the news almost daily, but suicides don’t receive nearly the same, or any, attention from the media unless the victim happens to be a celebrity. It is worth noting, however, that in 2014 there were 41,143 reported suicides as opposed to 16,108 homicides in total U.S. deaths. The trend of suicides outpacing homicides in America is one that has been steadily rising for years.
For a more in-depth look into suicide and its confusing place in the world, we recommend Freakonomics podcast episode “The Suicide Paradox”. Likewise, if feeling depressed or suicidal, consider reading “Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide”, a blog post from Tim Ferriss for some perspective.
Above all else, if you are feeling depressed and suicidal, please talk to someone. Whether you feel comfortable talking to a friend, family member or even a stranger, there are people who want to listen and help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline allows you to chat online or you can call them at 800.273.8255 where someone will listen or talk 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The NIH makes the distinction between occasional anxiety, which is a normal part of life, and anxiety disorders, “which involve more than temporary worry or fear…the feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work and relationships.” Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.
According to anxietycentre.com, “Anxiety disorders affect 18.1% of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54).” Current estimates put this number closer to 30% of the adult population with “only one third” receiving treatment “and of those, only 10% will receive proper treatment.” Follow the link above for more information about anxiety, numbers affected, demographics, steps for receiving treatment and much more.
Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder are all types of eating disorders. The NIH contests the notion that eating disorders are lifestyle choices and concludes they are “actually serious and often fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors. Obsessions with food, body weight, and shape also signal an eating disorder.”
“People with anorexia nervosa may see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves repeatedly, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. While many young women and men with this disorder die from complications associated with starvation, others die of suicide. In women, suicide is much more common in those with anorexia than with most other mental disorders.”
“People with bulimia nervosa have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa usually maintain what is considered a healthy or relatively normal weight.”
“People with binge-eating disorder lose control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.”
According to nationaleatingdisorders.org, “20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.”
Mood Disorders (Bipolar)
NIH defines bipolar disorder as “a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks…People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and unusual behaviors. These distinct periods are called ‘mood episodes.’ Mood episodes are drastically different from the moods and behaviors that are typical for the person. Extreme changes in energy, activity, and sleep go along with mood episodes.”
According to bipolar-lives.com, “Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.” “The median age…is 25 years” but can affect those in their 40’s and 50’s. It is also worth noting that “35% of people with bipolar disorder are obese…people with bipolar disorder are three times more likely to develop diabetes…and are 1.5 – 2 times more likely to die from conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.”
There are many ways to fight these disorders and conditions. If severe enough, professional opinions should be sought but it is also important to realize the connection between all the forms of health discussed this month. Physical activity and clean eating can improve mood and reduce depression. A person with functioning mental cognition can attain more throughout a day. Someone able to properly process their emotions and feelings won’t be stymied by temporary setbacks. All of these factors intertwine and together they can help make us the very best versions of ourselves. When we perform at our best, our risk of accident and injury decrease, when those risks decrease, insurance costs will also be low. The whole system is cyclical and anyone can take advantage of it with the proper lifestyle choices.