Mental and physical health are often thought of as two separate entities, but the reality is that they are deeply intertwined. Research has shown that mental health can have surprising and significant impacts on physical health. Mental health can significantly affect the onset and progression of various physical health conditions, from heart disease to chronic pain. In this article, we’ll explore five surprising ways mental health impacts physical health.
How Mental Health Can Impact Physical Health
Digestion is a complex process that is controlled by the enteric nervous system, which is sometimes referred to as the “second brain.” The muscles in the digestive tract, as well as the secretion of digestive fluids and nutrient absorption, are controlled by the enteric nervous system.
Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can significantly impact the enteric nervous system, leading to a range of digestive problems. For example, anxiety can cause the body to produce more adrenaline, decreasing blood flow to the digestive tract and making it more difficult for food to be broken down and absorbed. This can result in a range of digestive issues, including nausea, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
In addition, stress and anxiety can also cause the body to produce more stomach acid, leading to conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcers. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may develop due to changes in gut flora brought on by prolonged stress and anxiety.
One of the primary ways that mental health conditions can impact physical health and life expectancy is through unhealthy behaviors. For instance, people who struggle with their mental health may be more likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol, or eat poorly, all of which increase the risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. A lack of physical activity and disturbed sleep are two additional factors that can be attributed to mental health issues linked to poor health outcomes.
In addition, mental health conditions can also impact the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and other illnesses. This may ultimately affect life expectancy, especially for people with chronic mental health conditions that may cause ongoing immune system dysfunction.
An individual’s energy level and general physical well-being can be significantly impacted by their mental health. The inability to exercise and maintain general physical health can be brought on by illnesses like depression and anxiety, which can also cause fatigue, lethargy, and a lack of motivation. Additionally, sleep problems and insomnia, which are frequent in people with mental health issues, can lead to fatigue and poor physical performance.
Lack of Sleep
The ability to get a good night’s sleep can be significantly impacted by a person’s mental health conditions, which are important for maintaining physical health. Conditions such as anxiety and depression can make falling or staying asleep difficult. Individuals with mental health conditions may be more likely to experience sleep disturbances such as nightmares and night sweats.
By recognizing the surprising ways mental health impacts physical health, we can better address and prevent various health conditions. If you are struggling with a mental health condition or experiencing physical symptoms that may be related to mental health, it is important to seek help from a qualified healthcare provider. Contact Northwest Psychiatry & TMS to learn more about our services and how we can help you achieve optimal mental and physical wellness.