DiscoverCounselor Toolbox PodcastMind-Body Connection How Health, Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors Interact
Mind-Body Connection How Health, Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors Interact

Mind-Body Connection How Health, Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors Interact

Update: 2019-10-17


Mind-Body Connection: How Health, Thoughts, Feelings

and Behaviors Interact

Counselor Toolbox Podcast Episode 433

Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC

Executive Director,

Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox, Case Management Toolbox

Sponsored by

Manage your practice securely and efficiently. Two free weeks of TherapyNotes with coupon code “CEU”


– A healthy body is essential to health and happiness.

– Explore…

– How emotions are created

– How physical symptoms including pain, fatigue are created

– How is this done (general overview)


– HPA Axis

– Circadian Rhythms

– Gut-Brain Axis and the Vagus Nerve

– The bidirectional relationship between the mind and body

How are Emotions Created (Simplified)

– Born with the capacity for anger (fight), fear (flee/freeze), depression (f-It)

– Emotional responses are regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS)

– SNS- Sympathetic (Fight or Flee)

– PSNS- Parasympathetic (Rest and Relax)

– The limbic system helps control the ANS and PNS

– Hippocampus (memory consolidation, learning, attention, olfaction)

– Amygdala (fight or flee/survival)

– Hypothalamus (hormone regulation (HPA-Axis))

How are Emotions Created

– Unconditioned emotional responses are reactions to stimuli which did not need to be learned– i.e. present from birth

– Startle (puppy)

– Pain-Cry (shots)

– “Love”/ “contentment” (kangaroo care)

How are Emotions Created

– Conditioned emotional responses are learned emotional reactions to stimuli

– What things get conditioned and how can they cause or reduce stress-

– Dogs/Fire/Police/Guns

– Phone Calls

– Being Alone (child vs. adult)

– Transference

– Failure

– Rejection

– Loss of Control

HPA –Axis (Threat Response System)

– Secretion of adrenaline, norepinephrine and corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH)

– Cortisol is released

– Glutamate is released and GABA is inhibited

– Blood pressure increases

– Blood glucose is elevated

– Some 5HT receptors are activated, others are inhibited

Neurobiology of Attachment

– Hormones including dopamine, norepinephrine, cortisol, oxytocin and the serotonergic system modulate attachment

– Opioids may inhibit oxytocin and reduce feelings of social connection

How Physical Sensations Are Created

– Nociception can occur in the absence of awareness of pain, and pain can occur in the absence of measurably noxious stimuli

– CNS receives a pain signal from the PNS (peripheral nervous system)

– This triggers the Autonomic Nervous System and HPA-Axis

– All pain “information” is transmitted via glutamate

– An “inflammatory soup” is created which results in signals to the CNS as well as initiating inflammation which releases substance P and causes vasodilation, leakage of proteins and fluids into the extracellular space near the terminal end of the nociceptor (swelling), and stimulation of immune cells

– Substance P is associated with depression and anxiety symptoms

Neurotransmitters Pain & Fatigue

– Serotonin

– 5-HT2A receptor produces anxiety, pain, insomnia

– 5HT1A receptors reduce anxiety, pain, insomnia

– Serotonin directly and indirectly regulates dopaminergic neurons

– GABA may decrease the perception of pain.

– Dopamine

– Helps relieve pain

– Increases energy

– Norepinephrine

– Activated during pain (emotional and physical) and causes decreased sensitivity to painful stimuli (hypoalgesia) and pain relief (analgesia).

– Mobilizes the brain and body for action

Gut-Brain Axis

– Up to 95% of some neurotransmitters are made in the gut

– The gut communicates with the brain via the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system

– Lactobacillus produces acetylcholine

– Controls voluntary movement, memory, learning, and sleeping patterns. Excess can cause depression whereas deficiencies cause Dementia

– Candida, streptococcus, E. Coli and enterococcus produce 5HT

– Serratia (gram neg. bacteria) produces dopamine

– Lactobacillus, Bifidbacterium, candida and streptococcus secrete GABA and regulate endocannabinoid expression

– A healthy gut microbiome can decrease depression and anxiety, regulate sleep, appetite and improve cognition (1000 species)

– An unhealthy gut microbiome contributes to an exaggerated HPA-Axis response

Gut-Brain Axis

– The effect of acute stress is limited due to microbiota's long time relative stable state, but chronic stress can disturb this balance

– The structure of intestinal microbiota is strongly influenced by diet and environmental stressors

– Corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) plays an important role in changing intestinal permeability

– Research suggests that gut-brain axis dysfunction may be involved in the development of mood disorders, schizophrenia, addiction, and neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases as well as age-related cognitive decline*

– The treatment of these conditions may adversely affect the composition of intestinal microbiota since antipsychotics and antidepressants are antibacterial agents

Endocannabinoid System

– Clinical studies revealed altered endocannabinoid signaling in patients with chronic pain and depression

– Dysregulation is associated with

– Schizophrenia and depression

– (CB1) plays a crucial role in preventing the neurotoxicity caused by activation of glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs).

– “Inadequate endocannabinoid control may produce excess or insufficient dampening of NMDAR activity, thus promoting dopamine signaling, such as in schizophrenia, or diminishing serotonergic activity, as observed in depression”

– Problems in neurotransmission, neuroendocrine, and inflammatory processes

– Omega3s have a neuroprotective function and can modulate activity in the endocannabinoid system

Circadian Rhythms (Sleep!)

– Cortisol helps regulate our circadian rhythms, and circadian rhythms regulate cortisol levels.

– Circadian disruption is a stressor


– Perception of and response to internal and external stimuli shape how we interact with the world and the world interacts with us.

– Stimuli interpreted by the limbic system as threatening based on past experiences to similar situations

– Triggers ANS and HPA-Axis activation (stress response)

– Increased norepinephrine, glutamate, adrenaline

– Reduced GABA

– Alterations in the 5HT system (increased 5-HT2CR receptor activity & reduced 5HT 1A) and sex hormones

Recap What Causes Stress

– Physical pain (injury, inflammation, Intense exercise and overtraining)

– Physical illness or dysregulation (hormones, brain health, sickness)

– Nutrient availability & medications

– Gut Health (microbiome homeostasis)

– Nutrition

– Deficiencies due to lack of nutrient consumption or malabsorption

– Hypo/hyperglycemia/insulin resistance

– Lack of sleep

– Prior learning experiences (schemas/PTSD)

– Physical environment

– Social environment

Consequences of Chronic Stress

– In a state of chronic stress, the body does everything it can to survive leading to one of two situations:

– Hypercortisolism—The negative feedback mechanism doesn’t kick in to protect against ever present danger (Fight, Flee, Freeze)

– Hypocortisolism – The negative feedback mechanism kicks in too much to conserve energy for only the most severe emergencies (F-It)

– Base cortisol levels are reduced after exposure to chronic uncontrollable stressors.

– Chronic stress causes inflammatory cytokines to be released which interfere with H & P function

– H & P are responsible for producing precursors to thyroid hormones producing hypothyroid

– Suppress the sensitivity of thyroid hormone receptors to thyroid hormones.

Consequences cont…

– Emotional impact of a stressor is determined by our allostatic load

– Social Environment

– Physical Environment

– Physical Health

– Cognitive Perception of the Problem

– Behavioral Reactions

Consequences of HPA-Axis Activation

– Until the person feels safe…

– Irritability (physiological, behavioral emotional)*

– Perseveration*

– Hypervigilance*

– Sleep disruption*

– Increased pain (long term)

– Increased GI motility*

– Changes in gut microbiome*

– Reduced libido

– Hypothyroid

– Social withdrawal*

– Eating changes (ghrelin alterations)

– Inflammation*

– Decreased latency to immobility and increased duration of immobility after exposure to stressors*


– The mind helps the body interpret signals based on stimulus input and prior learning

– The body sends out messages in the form of hormones and neurochemicals which produce physiological reactions we label with “emotions”

– Positive emotions promote HPA-Axis downregulation which improves attachment and sleep, reduces cortisol, increases 5HT1A, GABA, dopamine and reduces pain

– The mind-body system is bidirectional and complex therefore it is essential to explore all causes of “symptoms” and enhance factors that promote positive changes.









Mind-Body Connection How Health, Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors Interact

Mind-Body Connection How Health, Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors Interact

Charles Snipes