The physical symptoms and effects of mental illness is something that doesn’t get discussed nearly enough. Even though mental conditions can vary greatly in symptoms and severity, the conclusion I reached when I did a little research is that anything that is negatively impacting your psychological health can most certainly also take a toll on your physical health. Here are a few specific examples.
Depression and the heart
The American Heart Association states that 33% of heart attack patients also report suffering from depression. As pointed out in the following article, depression can also take a toll on such things as hormone and glucose levels. Here is the reference article if you want to check it out for yourself: How Does Depression Affect the Heart?
A few years ago, I myself ended up in the emergency room as I was having severe chest pains. I seriously thought I was having a heart attack! The doctors did a multitude of tests but my heart turned out to be just fine. They couldn’t find anything physically wrong with me. Stress and a recent bout of depression was most likely the culprit.
Anxiety and the brain
On yet another occassion I ended up going to the emergency room as I was experiencing the absolute worst headache of my life. The pain ended up spreading throughout the rest of my body until I could barely move. I’d been feeling anxious and stressed out for quite a while so it’s no wonder. No doubt this took a toll on my brain.
So, in a strange way I was rather happy to read the following article by Marwa Azab Ph.D. published by Psychology Today, which backs up what I’d already suspected. Anxiety most definitly has a detrimental effect on the brain: “The Pain of Worry: The Anxious Brain.”
Stress and the muscular system
Feeling physical pain in the muscles will come as no surprise to anyone who has experienced bouts of severe stress, in other words most everyone. Our shoulders often take the brunt of it, however, stress may also be felt in the arms, legs, abdomine, etc. A person is also more likely to experience muscle-related injuries when the muscles are taut and not in proper working order.
Read this brief write up by the The American Psychological Association (APA) on this subject: “Stress Effects on the Body: Musculoskeletal System” .
BPD and the nervous system
People like me who are dealing with the horrendous effects of borderline personality disorder are well aware of how senstive their bodies can be when they are in the midst of their worst symptoms. It should make BPD sufferers feel a little better to know that it truly isn’t all psychologically related. Abnormalities between how the brain communicates with the body’s system of nerves are thought to be a huge factor in BPD. Read through this interesting article on VeryWellMind for more information: BPD and the Sympathetic Nervous System.
So, now you have a scientific explanation to provide to people when thet tell you to quite being so sensitive. Physicially speaking, you are more senstive than the average person.
The respiratory system
No doubt that mental illness can effect the body’s respiratory system as well. Not only the actual act of breathing but I believe much of the acute sinus problems I had when I was younger were at least partially due to stress, anxiety and depression.
Here is one final interesting post from Healthline.com on stress, which is typically present in most mental health disorders, and it’s effects on the entire body.