By Pam Dewey • July 30, 2020
Suffering from a mental health issue has a direct impact on your physical health. When people talk about the weight of depression, it isn’t a metaphor. It can feel like a physical weight is pressing down on you.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In other words, having a healthy state of mind is just as important as having a healthy body. And what your mind is feeling can affect your body.
Mental health issues cause physical symptoms
More than just feeling like a weight, depression can cause insomnia, or you may be unable to get out of bed. You may have a lack of appetite or overeat. People who are depressed may also experience stomachaches, headaches or other body aches.
Anxiety can cause muscle tension, insomnia and fatigue.
These are just a few physical symptoms caused by mental health issues. However, prolonged mental health concerns can cause your body to react in different ways and make it harder to fight off chronic diseases.
Stress changes the way your body works
Stress is perfectly normal. However, stress causes your body to speed up your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and blood flow to your muscles. Your body also slows down less-urgent body functions that deal with digestion, growth and parts of the immune system. Your body does this so you can react quickly in a stressful situation — the idea of fight or flight.
Being stressed occasionally isn’t a big deal. But if you are consistently in stressful situations, your body has to continue responding this way. It can lead to inflammation in your immune system.
Untreated conditions can have long-term health impacts
If your immune system isn’t functioning properly, you are more at risk of catching viruses. You can also develop more serious conditions.
Mental health issues like depression, anxiety or stress put you at an increased risk for chronic conditions like:
The good news is there are many ways to take care of your mental health. Exercise releases body chemicals like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals increase good feelings in your body. Experts also recommend getting a full night’s sleep and eating a well-balanced diet.
“At Fraser, we believe in an integrated health care approach that focuses on both physical and mental health. We want to think about how we can boost health in all areas,” says Pat Pulice, Fraser Vice President of Integrated Health Care.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional. The sooner you reach out for help, the better your chances of avoiding chronic conditions.