CULTIVATING MENTAL HEALTH

As we age, our tendency to experience anxiety or depression might increase. We may worry about our children, though they may be grown and out on their own. We may worry about our finances, a sick friend or a loved one and we may worry about our future.

Research does show that one in five older adults experiences mental health issues that are NOT a normal part of aging. More importantly, our mental health greatly impacts our physical health. Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, weight gain, menopause and erectile dysfunction can worsen depression as we grow older.

Depression not only weakens the immune system, but it may also impact treatment options when we decide to seek help from a professional. We might think depression is "normal" and just an inevitable result of life changes, chronic illness, disability or because "it runs in my family."

But there is Help! We can learn to recognize the symptoms and seek guidance to move to a healthier lifestyle.

One of my patients was feeling so down about his excess weight and also lonely and dissatisfied in his personal and professional life that he resorted to "self-medicating" with food. As a result, he had become obese over time and was suffering from other health issues as well.

Once he turned to me for help, my first priority was to guide my patient to uncover the reason why food had become his medicine whenever the going got tough. Answers surfaced through our therapy sessions that were combined with hypnosis. We learned that, as a youngster, Mom always advised that ice cream was the answer, because "Ice cream always makes things better."

My patient had found this "solution" very satisfying and had relied heavily on Mom's advice. He had not learned more benign forms of coping with stress. But once he recognized why he chose food, we were able to discuss alternatives, and the patient is now able to cultivate and apply solid habits of coping with challenging issues as they arise.

In fact, good mental health habits contributes to an overall feeling of well-being, and that is directly related to the health of our immune system. Solid habits of coping with life's challenges contribute substantially to quicker physical healing.

I welcome your questions. Let me know how I can help!

Dr. Q

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