Mental health and physical health may sound like two different concepts, but your overall healthcare pulls equally from both.
A poor body and a sound mind may keep you at risk of hypertension, obesity, and other epidemics. But a sound body and a poor mind can keep you at risk of the same problems, stress disorders, or worse.
Your mental health has a profound effect on your physical health. Momentary flares of stress, anger, or sadness are to be expected—but you owe it to yourself to consult a medical professional if you’re experiencing serious difficulties keeping a sound mind.
Here are just four of the ways that your mental health affects your physical health.
1. Stress Disorders
Stress tends to have a consistent presence in the lives of many adults in fast-paced jobs and careers that affect a litany of people. But stress can do more to your body than clutter your mind and keep you on edge.
National studies have uncovered that stress can unleash a host of different physical ailments on your body if left unchecked.
While under the effects of stress, you can expect to experience anything from tension, irritability, and disbelief to a loss of appetite, numbness, or even depression.
There are many stress disorders that can make appearances over time—from acute stress disorder up to the well-documented post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The worst part is, PTSD doesn’t require an encounter with war or death to develop.
If you’ve been experiencing stress that hasn’t gone away in several days or longer or know that you’re especially prone to stress, seek out a medical professional to explain your issue and understand how to cope with your feelings.
2. The Immune System
The immune system is the primary way your body maintains a healthy and happy body. Many glands—such as the spleen, thymus, and the lymph vessels—work alongside your brain in order to secrete enzymes and utilize white blood cells to ward off disease.
Studies have now shown that stress or stress-induced anxiety can weaken your body’s immune system—alongside your digestive system and sleep cycle. That means that the way your mind is feeling can result in diarrhea, insomnia, and an increased risk of contracting other infections and diseases.
Not only can your mental health weaken your body—it can make your body less able to ward off everyday illnesses and make matters far worse.
3. Anxiety Disorders
A worrisome mind and an issue with anxiety are two very separate concepts.
If you’re expecting a big presentation at work or preparing for a first date, it is healthy and normal to have an overactive mind and feel a little bit anxious about the event ahead.
However—if you’re experiencing these symptoms and find yourself constantly thinking (and overthinking) when you aren’t expecting a big event, it is time to call the doctor.
You may be experiencing the effects of an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders range from compulsive behaviors, all the way up to a predisposition to intrusive thoughts or a hyperactive mind. You may even suffer through a debilitating experience known as a panic attack—which can last for several minutes and cause your mind to race and body to shut down.
Anxiety disorders are especially serious due to their ability to develop into depression as well as affect your physical health. Anxiety disorders can cause muscle tension, extended fatigue, insomnia, and general restlessness in those who suffer from them.
Depression is perhaps the most serious—and least understood—of the currently recognized mental disorders.
To be clear—depression is not sadness.
Sadness in life can be caused by the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or even a breakup or divorce. We can expect to be saddened by these experiences, and gradually overcome them.
Depression typically feels like…well, nothing.
A loss of interest in things that were previously exciting. A general feeling of despair. And for some people, invasive and even suicidal thoughts.
In terms of physical effects, you can expect to experience a decrease or loss of energy, difficulty sleeping, wild and unexplained shifts in appetite or weight changes, headaches, digestive problems, and other pains without other explanation.
If any of this sounds like you, please—speak to a doctor immediately.
A licensed therapist can help you uncover the root cause of your feelings and possibly prescribe medication that will help soften the effects.
Due to the general availability of mental health medication, you can expect to seek help anywhere, at any time. You can even get prescriptions delivered. Ignoring depression and related symptom is not only foolish—it is dangerous.
While not every one considers mental health to be just as important as physical health, the science is conclusive.
Your mental health has an impact on the way your body functions and defends itself. If you care for your physical health as often as you should, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to seek out the same help whenever you feel your mind is out of order.
It just might be.
How well do you care for your mental health?
How has your mental health affected your physical health?
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