Mental health and physical health are often thought of as two separate entities yet they go hand in hand. The reality is that mental health has a direct impact on an individual’s overall health and wellness. According to the World Health Organization, health is a state of complete mental, physical, and social well-being. Today, depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. The effects of this mental disorder affect a person’s physical health. It’s not just about your mental health and emotions.
Depressive symptoms include feelings of sadness or emptiness, fatigue or low energy, intrusive thoughts or suicide, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, feelings of sluggishness, changes in appetite, lack of or too much sleep, and feeling worthless. Note that these symptoms tend to change over time and may vary from one person to the other. Here’s how depression can affect your overall health and wellness, especially if left untreated.
Increased Pain Sensitivity
Studies show that depression can cause unexplained chronic body aches or pains, including headaches and muscle and joint pain. Depression affects the functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain leading to increase sensitivity to pains and aches. Often, the pain or boy ache doesn’t improve with medication.
Weakened Immune System
Research shows that there’s a relationship between depression and inflammation. Inflammation has also been linked to chronic stress. Depression and chronic stress have been shown to weaken the immune system. People with depression and chronic stress are more likely to have autoimmune disorders and inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.
Increases Risk of Heart Disease
When you’re suffering from chronic stress or depression you’re more likely to feel motivated to make healthy lifestyle choices. If left untreated, depression and chronic stress increases the risk of heart attack. It’s also important to note that stress hormones raise the blood pressure and increase the heart rate. As a result, you may develop heart disease.
One of the coping mechanisms for people with depression is overeating or bingeing. As mentioned, depression affects a person’s appetite and food choices. Common digestive problems among depression patients include constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. Depression has been shown to change how the brain responds to stress by suppressing activity in the adrenal glands, pituitary glands, and hypothalamus.
People with depression or chronic stress have been reported to experience insomnia. When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, you may feel exhausted all the time and it becomes difficult to manage both mental and physical health. Long-term sleep deprivation and deficiency have been linked to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer.
Sexual Health Problems
Being depressed may cause a loss of interest in sex. People with depression and chronic stress may have trouble becoming aroused or even have a decreased libido. In some cases, you may no longer have orgasms. The strain and problems depression brings to relationships cannot be ignored as well.
Recognizing that depression and chronic stress can affect your body and physical health can help you make lifestyle changes and seek treatment to help manage your symptoms. With the right support from family and friends, you can manage both mental and physical health effects of depression.