Definition: In healthcare a comorbidity is the presence of one or more health conditions that exists alongside a primary health condition.
Unfortunately, comorbidities are not as recognized as I believe they should be. Do we appreciate that someone who has anxiety may also have depression because of the difficulties their anxiety presents them with? Do we think about the implications that heart disease can have on a person’s wellbeing and mental health state? In 2018 and in an ideal world these health inequalities wouldn’t still be occurring, but unfortunately, they are. Physical health and mental health are still widely seen as two completely separate issues, when reality shows that they’re overwhelmingly interlinked.
‘No health without mental health’ – this could not be more true.
Although I am partly slating the healthcare systems for not recognizing the relationship between physical and mental health, we have got better. Services that care for patients with cancer have sub-services which can offer counselling and support for the impact this diagnosis can have upon the patient and their family. Employers have been driven to recognize that mental health can have as much of an impact on working life as a broken leg can.
But, what we are unfortunately still failing to do is recognize the comorbidities that exist primarily with a physical health problem and a mental health problem. It is much easier to separate the two. However, sometimes in doing so we are unable to treat the problem as the other is interlinked, and therefore, the problem needs to be treated as one.
When we think about contributing factors to mental health problems we think about the mind, about life events and life stressors. A physical health condition can be as triggering for a mental health condition as losing a loved one, having a stressful work environment, or a relationship breakdown.
This article is aimed to make you think outside the box, what else is occurring with this person and how best am I able to support them? Are they depressed because their health condition is causing them too much discomfort? The constant treatment and trips to the hospital might be contributing to the anxiety someone feels.
Think about health conditions separately, but as a whole. Just like a comedy can make you laugh, and a horror can make you frightened, a physical health condition can affect your mental health.