A person’s wellness encompasses more than just what a doctor can check during a physical. How does mental health affect physical health? It is a complex relationship between mind, body, and spirit, each influencing the other.
This article will look at some common ways that our mental and physical health interact and highlight some of the health problems that are most prevalent in the United States today.
Mental Health Effects on Physical Condition
When people see improvement in one aspect of mental health, such as decreased anxiety or depression, they often notice improvements in various parts of their physical health.
Maybe they suddenly feel more active, with increased stamina and energy, and find the desire to exercise more. They may notice improved hygiene and posture.
Conversely, people may notice how their physical health suffers when their mental health suffers. Even those who would typically describe their mental health as “normal” or “average” still have to contend with sudden changes or challenges in life that can upset their ability to realize their complete happiness.
If these mental health challenges persist or are chronic, long-lasting conditions such as heart disease and diabetes can drastically impact their quality of life and shorten their life span.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these connections.
The Connections Between Common Mental and Physical Health Concerns
Depression is the most common mental disorder in the United States, with almost 10% of adults suffering from a depressive illness each year.
- Physical Isolation: An individual who suffers from depression will feel sad, lonely, and unappreciated. Due to a lack of motivation, they may not leave the house or spend time doing activities they love.
- Weakened Immune System: Depression weakens the immune system, leaving a depressed individual with a weakened ability to fight illnesses, allergies, and asthma attacks. They are more susceptible to inflammation, and take longer to recover from physical ailments.
- Suicide: One tragic connection between mental and physical health is suicide. According to the World Health Organization, suicide accounts for one percent of deaths globally. If you are considering suicide, dial 988 to access a free, 24/7 confidential support line for anyone in need.
Anxiety and Anger
Anxiety, which often results from trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has many adverse health effects.
- Stroke: The connection between anxiety and cardiovascular disorders such as stroke is firmly established through research, though the exact mechanisms for this connection are unknown. Stroke remains a leading physical threat to people who suffer from anxiety.
- Hypertension and Heart Attack: Chronic short-term stress causes spikes in stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, prompting the heart to beat faster and stronger. Over a person’s lifetime, this stress causes inflammation in the circulatory system, increasing the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Headaches: Constant bodily tension caused by anxiety leads to headaches. There are two common types of headaches: migraine and tension-type. Both are unpleasant and can be symptoms of concerns that mental health professionals could potentially treat.
- Hyperventilation or Panic Attacks: Anxiety can cause shortness of breath and changes in breathing patterns. For people with pre-existing breathing conditions, this can lead to hyperventilation. For people prone to panic attacks, this can set them off into an anxiety spiral.
- Cardiovascular Disorders: A study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs found a connection between veterans who had PTSD and poor cardiovascular health. These observations included abnormal readings on ECG readings and defects in atrioventricular conduction.
- Gastrointestinal Disorders: Traumatic events early in life change how the nervous system responds to stress, affecting the digestive system. People who have PTSD may be more susceptible to unhealthy diets, bloating, and chronic bowel disorders.
At Advanced Behavioral Health, we understand the intricate connection between an individual’s mind, body, and spirit.
If you feel that your health is out of balance, or you would like to speak to a qualified, compassionate mental health professional, please get in touch with us.
Our team members will be standing by to help you find the confidential consultation you need, so call us at 301-345-1022 or send us a message online here.