Emotional imbalances may not be ‘all in your head.’
Story: Audry Van Houweling
Your mind is your body, your body is your mind. There are biochemical and physiological processes behind every word we say, every thought we think, and every action we take. While strides have been made in integrating emotional wellness with the physical body, the idea of the mind and body being separate still exists as mainstream medicine continues to be largely compartmentalized. Your emotional and physical well-being are one in the same and intimately connected in bidirectional processes. In other words, what impacts your emotional wellness has ramifications on your body as a whole and so, too, what is occurring in the body is likely impacting your emotional state. This is important to recognize in order to lessen stigma because it largely debunks the myth that your emotional state is “all in your head.”
This also implies that emotional imbalances, behaviors, and even thought processes may at times be driven by physiological processes beyond our control and, therefore, it demands a certain amount of grace from both ourselves and others. Shame and stigma around mental health conditions continue to be rampant. It is important to recognize emotional imbalances and symptoms are not indicative of a character flaw or weakness but can be outside your cognitive control.
Inflammation, hormone imbalances, nutrition, detoxification, immune health, and gut health all have ramifications on emotional wellness, which often is not fully addressed or explained in mainstream medicine. In some cases, individuals may be diagnosed with a mental illness and told it is permanent when, in fact, there are some tangible, perhaps even non-pharmaceutical, treatment options to address underlying physiological causes overlooked or not investigated.
It is also important in our world of comparisons, facades, and social media that people are given room to be vulnerable and disclose struggles. All of us face uphill battles—it is part of the human experience. It is not black and white. We are not simply “OK” or “not OK.” It is possible to be both.
How we interpret emotional imbalance and mental health conditions is heavily influenced by the society, culture, and other institutions. For example, an individual experiencing visions or believing they have communication with unseen others may be labeled psychotic while the same individual may be revered in another. This speaks to the power of language and labels around symptomology and how the values and demands of a particular society, culture, or institution may exacerbate a perceived problem.
In today’s individualistic, fast-paced, and digitalized society, sadness and poor motivation do not bode well and hasten the urgency an individual may feel when experiencing symptoms. While the society, culture, and institutions in which we take part are not solely to blame for mental health conditions, they need to be assessed, diagnosed, and treated just as we are as individuals.
Furthermore, basic social determinants of health, such as access to food, shelter, and safety, are not in place for too many. Many are operating out of a “fight or flight” mode and simply trying to survive. Sustained stability in this case is unrealistic until basic human needs are met. Ultimately, advocacy for social change and social justice is paramount to our own emotional experience and that of others.
In summary, it is important to remember that our emotional experiences and those of others are not blame-worthy, but rather a response to complex physiological and psychosocial factors that demand more than 15-minute office visits and short-sighted treatment decisions. Addressing the roots of emotional wellness takes time, curiosity, and courage. There is a need to confront patterns, lifestyles, and social expectations that may be engrained. More than anything however, extend grace to ourselves and others as we navigate the ups and downs of the human experience and allow space to voice our struggles without judgment.
About the writer :
Audry Van Houweling is a holistic psychiatric nurse practitioner and founder of She Soars Psychiatry, created out of her belief that mental health diagnoses are not always permanent conditions and that noninvasive methods may be effective treatments. Visit shesoarspsych.com.