Physical symptoms can be indicator of mental wellness

*Editor?s note: This is the second in a four-part series that takes a look at a person?s health from head to toe and discusses how one aspect of an individual?s health can have lasting affects in other areas.

There?s more than one path to wellness, and local therapists are encouraging people to take ownership of their mental health in the same way they would seek out a doctor to care for their physical health.

Stomach aches, headaches, sleeping or eating more or less, or a suddenly quickened pulse are the most common physical symptoms people display when they are mentally stressed, said Annie Hudson, marriage and family therapist in Mt. Pleasant.

?I?ve seen people who have been to the emergency room thinking they were having a heart attack when in fact it was just an anxiety attack,? Hudson said.

While not everyone?s mental health manifests itself as such extreme physical symptoms, Hudson said that being aware of environmental stressors is important. The way a person feels emotionally plays a vital role in all interactions in their life, such as family and romantic relationships or job or school performance, Hudson said.

This is why local therapists are championing changing the stigma surrounding mental health diagnosis, something that previously has not been readily and openly discussed, Hudson said.

?In comparison to physical health, there is a stigma toward mental health,? Hudson said. ?You?re seen as weak or broken. It?s intimidating for people to explore.?

Chris Betsworth, therapist at Hillcrest Family Services, also said that he believes there?s a long history of stigma being attached to mental health. Cultural perspectives play a role in how society continues to view individuals identifying with mental health concerns.

?We all know there?s a variety of things we can do to improve our physical health. A lot of those things relate directly to our overall sense of well-being,? Betsworth said, adding that the biggest barrier to people seeking out help for their mental health is taking that first step. He encourages them to reach out to friends and family first.

?People may recognize something is off, but then they?re afraid or they don?t know how to take that next step,? Betsworth said. ?Loved ones can genuinely ask ?How can I help?? That?s the first pathway for coming alongside someone else.?

When it comes to seeking therapy, Hudson recognizes that it?s difficult for people to let their guard down. It can be intimidating for them to explore underlying causes for their anxiety or depression because it?s often related to trauma or things in the past that are tough to talk about, she said.

?It?s easier to avoid it, which is often what people do for long periods of time,? Hudson said.

Hudson believes that sometimes hearing it from a professional can help someone make the decision about seeking treatment. Such is the case for her patients who went to the emergency room with physical symptoms and were told they were experiencing mental stress.

Although within the state of Iowa, there?s a lot of talk about mental health resources, Betsworth said people often overlook resources available right here in Henry County. Through Hillcrest, people have access to same-day health services, which has been expanded to a 24-hour hotline through their partnership with Henry County Health Center (HCHC) and Great River Medical Center.

Hillcrest has in-person assessments available during business hours, and after business day ends, there are 24-hour teleservices available through Great River. Anyone can be seen in Hillcrest?s Mt. Pleasant office by calling 319-385-7177. Great River?s teleservice can be reached any time at 1-877-404-4770.

Betsworth said that if someone comes into their office for a crisis session and they don?t have insurance, the region will pay for their session and then they will work with individuals to get them health insurance or other resources to continue their journey to mental wellness.

While the bigger agencies like Hillcrest are able to work with people on an individual basis when it comes to insurance, overall, insurance can be a huge barrier in who seeks therapy, Hudson said.

Although she said she wouldn?t get on her soap box when it came to talking about insurance, Hudson expressed her frustration when people call inquiring about therapy and are turned down because their insurance doesn?t cover their sessions.

?Private pay is an option, but it?s expensive,? Hudson said. ?When you have to shell out close to $100 every session, that?s sometimes just not financially feasible for folks.?

For people who may not feel therapy is necessary or are not ready to pursue therapy, Betsworth suggested other ways they can check in with their mental health, whether it just be improving connections with others such as finding local groups or seeking out family and friends to talk to or engaging in new hobbies.

?For me, it comes down to what is unique to an individual to improve their overall sense of well-being,? Betsworth said. ?For any given person, it?s helping find what that path is for them. For some individuals, it?s going for a bike ride, for other?s it?s going for a drive and getting some sunshine.?