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Have you ever experienced depression and / or anxiety and noticed physical symptoms that may have seemed related? Dr. Michael Karlfeldt, ND, PhD talks with Raelynn Grant, MALPC on the very real connection between mental disease and physical symptoms from headaches, pain, digestive disorders and sleep disturbance. Along with attention to nutrition, dietary habits, and environmental considerations, seeking professional counseling or therapy can be an excellent way to address these challenges. 

Dr. Karlfeldt: With me I have Raelynn Grant, M.A.L.P.C., she is a professional counselor here in the valley. I’ve been talking a bit about the connection between mind and body and the importance of working on the mind as well as your physical aspect. So what are your thoughts on that?

Raelynn Grant, MALPC: Well, I love that you are combining both mind (psyche) and emotions. Because in order to be, ultimately a healthy person you have to take a look at all those facets of you as a person, your mind, your body; how well you take care of your mind and your body. It’s kind of a packaged deal.

Often times my clients that come to me will have backaches, sleep problems, issues with muscle pain, fibromyalgia, IBS is a really big one, irritable bowel syndrome. Lots of my clients will have all sorts of digestive and stomach problems because of the issues that are coming to surface that are psychological or emotional.

Dr. K: So they are actually coming then, with physical complaint.

RG: Yes.

Dr. K: But you are finding that there is an emotional reason for it.

RG: Like anxiety and depression, those are the two most common things we see in private practice. And there’s different levels; it’s normal to be depressed if something sad is happening. And it’s perfectly healthy and helpful to be anxious about exciting things that are coming up. Even threatening things, you get this low level of anxiety that helps motivate you to create a better outcome for yourself.

All of these things are normal until they start to interfere with your regular functioning and your ability to just get through your life, and be as successful as you would like to be.

RG: Depression is highly linked with pain. Which also interferes with sleep, which interferes with overall health, which makes you not want to eat, which causes crabbiness, which causes problems with your relationships, and your kids and your boss. So it’s kind of this whole circle of, I don’t want to say dysfunction, but broken functionality that really needs to get looked at altogether.

And I think a lot of times people forget to look inside. We look outside: “Oh, my back hurts, it hurts so bad. I’m going to see a doctor.”

But I think we, especially in the Western world, we just stuff it down: “It will go away. It will get better. I can deal with this. I’m strong.” Well, yes, you are strong, but sometimes, just like if you need to see a physical therapist, you may need to see a psychological therapist to help kind of push through, provide support, provide ideas. All sorts of things. A gifted, educated, well-versed counselor can take people through all sorts of hurtful things, or even promising things, that you just want to do better.

Dr. K: And can it sometimes be, like, let’s say they start hurting when they are 30, but could it be something in their childhood?

RG: Absolutely.

Dr. K: So it would be able to impact them so many years later. Because they didn’t have any pain in between, and then all of a sudden it starts showing.

RG: Yes. So, if a person had a traumatic event, say when they were 8. And they were able to heal and move forward. And then they have an 8-year old child. That kind of helps them remember those memories. And then they worry about their 8-year old child, which might make those painful things, whatever that trauma was, resurface. And then all of a sudden you are back to 8-years old again.

So a good counselor will help you realize that pain is real. And it happened, and you need to be nurtured through it. And we help the client nurture themselves through it, and then, just move forward.

Photo by Alex Ivashenko on Unsplash.