‘Sit mens sana in corpore sano’ is a famous quote by a poet that means ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’.  When we struggle with physical illnesses it is very common that our mental well-being also suffers. Research shows that people suffering from certain possible life-threatening conditions such as Cancer, Coronary heart disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and other illness are much more likely to suffer from Depression and Anxiety than others. Many studies also show that people who suffer from Depression and Anxiety but do not suffer from any physical conditions are then more likely to start suffering from physical ailments. This shows that our mind and body work together and that if we want to fully take care of ourselves, we need to adopt good practices for both our mind and body.

When a person is physically in pain, this may very well effect the person’s emotions. Physical pain can cause difficulties in sleeping, difficulties in concentration and less motivation to engage in daily activities. These changes in our body trigger changes in our emotional and mental well being, which may then trigger mental health illness. Sometimes, mental health difficulties such as Depression and Anxiety (which may be triggered because of the news of a medical diagnosis, because of pain or because we need to change our lifestyle) start to lessen as the person starts to receive treatment or adjusts to the illness.  However, in some cases, certain medication causes side effects which may then cause further difficulties. In the case of psychotropic medications such as antidepressants and anxiolytics, relief from symptoms are not immediate, and side effects in the first two to three weeks are very common.  It is therefore very important to seek medical help from professionals whom you can trust, and it is also very important to be attuned to your needs.

Genetics play a large role in our susceptibility, meaning that some people are more likely than others to suffer from certain conditions. However, some physical and mental health illnesses can be prevented by adopting good self care practices. Engaging in regular physical exercise, adopting a healthy balanced diet, spending time with people who make us feel loved, and engaging in work which makes us feel satisfied, help us maintain our physical and mental well being.

A serious physical or mental illness can affect our relationships, work, spiritual beliefs and other areas in our life. Such illnesses can make us feel very worried, helpless and isolated, perhaps because of a lack of control or understanding in what is happening to us. If you feeling much more sad and irritable than you would normally feel, or if you are feeling that you have lost pleasure in usually enjoyed hobbies or activities, it is very important to seek professional help. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but can be the first step to recovery.


– Claire is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness.  She works with adolescents and adults.  She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on claire@willingness.com.mt.