Mental Health: A Look At How Exercise, Diet, And Supplementation Can Help!

The fact is that mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older, about one in four adults, suffer... Read on.

Mental Health
A Look At How Exercise, Diet, & Supplementation Can Help.


The late Kevin Debrow and his Quiet Riot crew once told us to, "Bang your head. Mental health will drive you mad." I'm not so sure that's the case, but it made for a great song.

The fact is that mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older, about one in four adults, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. This translates to 57.7 million people.

How much is that you ask? Picture if every single person in California, Florida, and Connecticut had mental health issues. The population of those states are 57 million combined.

Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion - about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 people who suffer from a serious mental illness.

In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly related to factors of death.

Do You Know Someone With A Mental Disorder?


The 4 Axis Diagnosis

Psychiatrists swear on a book called the DSM-4. In this book we find the 5 Axis approach. We will cover the first four. In case you hear talk about these, let me quickly explain what each means.

Axis 1: Clinical Disorders:

  • Disorders usually diagnosed in infancy, childhood or adolescence (Autism, ADHD, Etc.)
  • Delirium, dementia and other cognitive disorders (Dementias, Alzheimer's Disease, etc.)
  • Mental disorders due to a general medical condition
  • Substance-related disorders (such as alcohol or drugs)
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Mood disorders (Depression, Bipolar)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Somatoform disorders ( Hypochondriasis.)
  • Dissociative disorders (Dissociative Identity Disorder, etc.)
  • Sexual and gender identity disorders
  • Eating disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia, etc.)
  • Sleep disorders (Insomnia, Sleep Terrors, etc.)
  • Impulse-control disorders (Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Kleptomania, etc.)
  • Adjustment disorders

Axis 2: Personality Disorders & Mental Retardation:

  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Dependent personality disorder
  • Mental Retardation

Axis 3: General Medical Conditions:

    This Axis is devoted to medical (physical conditions) that would help explain the other Axis diagnosis. For example if someone has chronic back pain, that may be a cause of a sleeping disorder.

Axis 4: Psychosocial & Environmental Problems:

  • Problems with the primary support group (divorce, abuse, deaths, births, etc.)
  • Problems related to social environment (retirement, living alone/friendships, etc.)
  • Educational problems (illiteracy, academic problems, conflict with teachers, etc.)
  • Occupational problems (unemployment, difficult work conditions, job dissatisfaction, etc.)
  • Housing problems (homelessness, unsafe neighborhood, problems with neighbors, etc.)
  • Economic problems (poverty, insufficient finances, etc.)
  • Problems with access to health care services (inadequate health care, transportation to health care, health insurance, etc.)
  • Problems related to interaction with the legal system/crime (arrest, incarceration, or victim of crime, etc.)
  • Other psychosocial and environmental problems (Disasters, problems with health care providers, etc.)

Using these four Axis's let's see what type of exercise, nutrition, and supplements that can help with some of the above conditions.

Exercise, Nutrition, & Supplementation In Mental Health

arrow ADHD:

    Attention deficit hyperactive disorder. Most people associate this condition with children, however those children do grow up and become adults. With this condition, the person has a hard time focusing on daily tasks, have a hard time with controlling impulsivity, and never stay still.

    ADHD is treated with most often, stimulant medications. These include:

    • Ritalin
    • Concerta
    • Metadate CD
    • Focalin
    • Dexedrine
    • Adderall
    • Daytrana

    There is also a non-stimulant medication called Strattera.

    So why are we giving stimulants (I.E: caffeine) to folks who are already jacked? Well once the stimulant gets in these people, it acts just the opposite of what it would do with someone who didn't have ADHD. It actually calms the person.

    I'd recommend focusing on endurance training. Endurance exercise almost immediately elevates dopamine and nor epinephrine and keeps them up for a period of time so that it acts like a little bit of Ritalin or Adderall.

    Related Endurance Articles:

    Dopamine and nor epinephrine are two "feel good" chemicals in our bodies. It also helps to still the impulsivity and still the cravings for immediate gratification as it works to wake up the main function of the frontal brain, which in turn allows for delay, better choices, a bit more time to evaluate consequences.

    A 30-45 minute jog/run 3-4 times a week works great.

    Essential Fatty Acids:

      You should consume EFA's (Essential fatty acids). In order for the information trapeze artists in your brain to swing from one neuron to the next properly, they need to have EFA's. Fish, flax seeds and nuts are great sources of EFAs.

      The specific EFA to look for is the omega-3 essential fatty acid DHA that's found in fish and some algae. Fish oil supplements are an efficient way to help you get the amount needed.

      DHA omega-3 eggs and other foods with DHA added to them are also good sources. EFAs from flax seed and other sources can work too, but the body needs to convert it into the form most advantageous for your body, so it is a less efficient source.

Essential Fatty Acids - Essential For Gains.
[ Click here to learn more. ]
Essential Fatty Acids - Essential For Gains.
This is the third article in a series covering what I call the 'Foundation Supplements.' In this article we'll deal with the essential and some important non essential fatty acids.
Mauro Di Pasquale

    Vitamin B:

      The B vitamins have been linked to improved neural activity and are great at reducing stress, both useful for ADHD. While most B vitamins are safe, two do have potential side effects so consult with a medical provider before selecting a supplement.

      1. Vitamin B3, also commonly known as niacin, can cause skin flushing and, in a time-released form, has been associated with liver damage.
      2. High doses of vitamin B6 can cause numbness and tingling.

      Good food sources of the B vitamins are nutritional yeast, liver, whole-grain cereals and breads, rice, nuts, milk, eggs, meats, fish, fruits, leafy green vegetables and soy.

Where Do You Get The Majority Of Your B Vitamins?

Food Sources.

arrow Depression:

    We all have those "blue days". Heck if you have ever watched Office Space the movie, you'd might even have a case of "the Mondays". If you have been losing or gaining weight, not enjoying things you normally enjoy, sad or hopelessness, sleeping too much or not enough, feeling tired, and/or thinking about death or suicide, you most likely have Clinical Depression.

    Counseling & Medication:

      For mild depression some counseling may be all you need. For more serious Depression you may need a combination of counseling and medication. For more serious forms, short term hospitalization may be the way to go.

      Some medications used to treat Depression are Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, and Lexapro. These are all SSRI's. These medications help send Serotonin throughout the brain. Serotonin is a "feel good" chemical within our brain.


      It appears that any form of exercise can help depression. Weight training and cardio are obvious choices, however don't discount biking, dancing, golf (walk instead of using the cart), jogging at a moderate pace, low-impact aerobics, tennis, swimming, walking, and yoga.

Weight Training: Your Best Friend When Fighting Depression!
[ Click here to learn more. ]
Weight Training: Your Best Friend When Fighting Depression!
We know that exercise can help fight heart disease, but can it help fight depression?
Jennifer Nicole Lee


      The brain chemicals that promote a feeling of well-being, tryptophan and serotonin, are triggered by carbohydrate rich foods. How and which carbohydrates affect mood and depression is not very clear. And, some people tend to be more sensitive to the quality and quantity of carbohydrates eaten.

      However, some general guidelines will fit for most people. Refined carbohydrates, primarily sugar and sugary foods, tend to provide immediate, but temporary relief. Once the benefit is gone, you may go looking for more foods to bring up your mood and energy level. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, cereals, breads, pastas, and fruits and vegetables, are more likely to supply a moderate, but lasting effect on brain chemistry, mood, and energy level.

    Vitamins & Minerals:

      Depression is also linked to a lack of certain vitamins, especially the B vitamins which are used in nervous system function. Although vitamin B6 deficiency is rare in the United States, many women do not get enough in their diets. A less than adequate intake may produce subtle changes in mood, even before a deficiency could develop.

      B6 also plays a role in the brain chemical production of serotonin. Studies show that people who are depressed have low levels of B6 and serotonin. Certain drugs, such as hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, and anti-tuberculosis medication can interfere with the body's use of B6, creating a borderline deficiency.

      Other B vitamins also participate in mental health. Folic acid deficiency can cause personality change and depression. Vitamin B12, at a low level can contribute to depression and memory problems.

      Folic acid deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the United States. Not only is it easily destroyed by cooking, but is mostly found in leafy green vegetables- an often under consumed food group. As we age, vitamin B12 may not be absorbed as readily, even if the recommended daily requirement is met through the diet.

      Minerals that play a role in the development or prevention of depression, irritability, and mood swings include calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.

arrow Eating Disorders:

    Having an Eating Disorder is an illness that takes control of all aspects of each sufferer's life, is caused by many emotional factors, and has a serious effect on the people suffering and their loved ones.

    For complexity sake we will focus on Bulimia and Anorexia. There are many other forms of Eating Disorders like:

    • Pica
    • Prader-Willi Syndrome
    • Night Eating Syndrome
    • Body Dysmorphic Disorder
    • Orthorexia
    • Bigorexia


      The person suffering with Anorexia may be abnormally sensitive about being perceived as fat, or have a massive fear of becoming fat -- though not all people living with Anorexia have this fear.

      They may be afraid of losing control over the amount of food they eat, accompanied by the desire to control their emotions and reactions to their emotions.

      With a low self-esteem and need for acceptance they will turn to obsessive dieting and starvation as a way to control not only their weight, but their feelings and actions regarding the emotions attached. Some also feel that they do not deserve pleasure out of life, and will deprive themselves of situations offering pleasure (including eating).

      Some of the behavioral signs can be:

      • Obsessive exercise.
      • Calorie and fat gram counting.
      • Starvation and restriction of food.
      • Self-induced vomiting.
      • The use of diet pills, laxatives or diuretics to attempt controlling weight.
      • A persistent concern with body image.

      It's interesting to read the above and think of us bodybuilders and the fact that we all could be perceived as Anorexic (esp. on our 12 week pre-contest diets getting ready for a contest).

      What we do is a temporary thing in order to achieve our goal on contest day as opposed to a way of living. That said, we DO need to be careful about how far we take it. It is a common fact that we can be obsessive individuals at times.

      A combined approach of medical attention and supportive psychotherapy designed specifically for anorexia patients is effective in some patients. But the effectiveness of a treatment depends on the person involved and his or her situation.

      Unfortunately, no specific psychotherapy appears to be consistently effective for treating adults with anorexia. However, research into novel treatment and prevention approaches is showing some promise.

Anorexia: Food Is The Enemy!
[ Click here to learn more. ]
Anorexia: Food Is The Enemy!
Over a year ago I was hospitalized for an eating disorder. The following article explains exactly what anorexia is and following afterwards is the story of my experience with it.
Peter Czerwinski


      Bulimia is characterized by repeated and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food (e.g., binge-eating), and feeling a lack of control over the eating. This binge-eating is followed by a type of behavior that compensates for the binge, such as purging (vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics), fasting and/or excessive exercise.

      Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia can fall within the normal range for their age and weight. But like people with anorexia, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape.

      Usually, bulimic behavior is done secretly, because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binging and purging cycle usually repeats several times a week.

      Similar to anorexia, people with bulimia often have coexisting psychological illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and/or substance abuse problems. Many physical conditions result from the purging aspect of the illness, including electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal problems, and oral and tooth-related problems.

      To reduce or eliminate Bulimic behavior, a patient may undergo nutritional counseling and psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or be prescribed medication.

      What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
      CBT is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to influence problematic and dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure. CBT can be seen as an umbrella term for therapies that share a theoretical basis in behavioristic learning theory and cognitive psychology, and that use methods of change derived from these theories.

      Some antidepressants, such as Prozac, which is the only medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating bulimia, may help patients who also have depression and/or anxiety. It also appears to help reduce binge-eating and purging behavior, reduces the chance of relapse, and improves eating attitudes.

Eating Disorders - What You Need To Know
[ Click here to learn more. ]
Eating Disorders - What You Need To Know
Get more information right here as I discuss various eating disorders and how they can be diagnosed and treated.
Shannon Clark

    Consult Your Physician:

      The specifics of diet and exercise of Anorexia and Bulimia recovery are outside my scope of practice and I can not recommend this or that. This has to be a very delicate balance between treatment and lifestyle modification. If you have the above signs/symptoms please see your Physician as soon as possible. These are very real diseases that can take your life.

arrow Sleep Disorders:

    A quick note on sleep disorders. A good cardio/weight workout, 3-4 times a week can assist you in your lack of sleep or sleeping too much. I'd say to work your way up to 45 mins of cardio 3-4 times a week and general, moderate intensity weight training sessions.

Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
A Good Workout 3-4 Times A Week
Can Assist Your Sleep.

arrow Axis 4:


Mental Health is a huge problem. It is also very misunderstood among "lay-people". In a sense if you have a physical disability society actually can see it and they are more understanding.

When your condition is "all in your head" it makes understanding by others that much more difficult. There is no easy cure and you may have to battle mental illness for life. There is a lot more information out there and new treatments/medications are continuously being developed.

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