how does mental health affect physical health
Health and Wellness

How Does Mental Health Affect Physical Health?

May 23, 2023

Over many years of studying how mental health affects physical health, it’s increasingly recognized that the two are intricately connected. The bond between mental and physical health form a balance that has a significant impact on your overall well-being. 

How does mental health affect physical health? Are there ways to help the two for a better balance? Today, we’re discussing the connection between your mind and body, how mental health has a direct influence over physical well-being, ways mental health ailments may manifest, and ways to improve both for a better quality of life.

How Mental Health Affects Physical Health: The Connection of Mind & Body

How does mental health affect physical health when one is the mind and the other the body, you wonder? The two may be addressed independently, but have a direct influence on one another. Research has consistently highlighted how the connection between the mind and body is deeply intertwined. When individuals experience mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or chronic stress, it often manifests in physical symptoms.

For instance, some of the physical signs of stress include elevated blood pressure, muscle tension, and headaches. Similarly, conditions like depression frequently lead to a loss of appetite, poor sleep quality, and chronic fatigue. The mind-body connection is a two-way street, as mental health affects physical health and vice versa.

As you learn answers to the question, “how does mental health affect physical health?” you’ll also see how the mind-body connection extends to healing and recovery. Positive mental health has been found to facilitate physical healing processes and boost the immune system. Conversely, mental health conditions left untreated can slow down the healing and recovery process. This is why those living with depression or anxiety may experience slower bodily healing than others.

Looking after mental health with therapy and self-care activities like getting a massage for anxiety and stress can be immensely beneficial for promoting overall holistic health.

How Stress and Anxiety Affect Physical Health

Continuing to explore answers to the question, “how does mental health affect physical health?” let’s take a look at the role stress and anxiety play. Stress and anxiety are common experiences in today's fast-paced and demanding world. Beyond their impact on mental well-being, these conditions can also have significant effects on physical health. 

Some of the ways stress and anxiety show how mental health affects physical health include:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure: When stress or anxiety arises, the body's stress response is triggered, leading to the release of stress hormones like cortisol. These hormones increase heart rate and blood pressure, putting more work on the heart. Chronic stress can lead to more serious conditions like high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease. 
  • Weakened immune system: Stress can weaken the immune system, making individuals more vulnerable to infections and illnesses. Those experiencing chronic stress may experience more frequent infections, longer recovery times, and an increased risk of developing chronic conditions as they get older.
  • Muscle tension: A common example of how mental health affects physical health is muscle tension and pain. The body responds to stress by subconsciously tightening the muscles, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and back. This can lead to tension headaches, migraines, muscle tension, and stiffness. Chronic stress-related muscle tension can contribute to chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.
  • Sleep issues: Elevated stress levels have a direct impact on sleep hygiene, too. This can lead to difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, as well as getting restorative sleep. Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on your overall health, lowering energy levels, cognitive function, immune system function, and mood.
  • Breathing problems: During times of elevated stress or anxiety, breathing patterns may become shallow or rapid, which can trigger or exacerbate respiratory issues such as asthma or panic attacks. Stress can also worsen symptoms in individuals with chronic respiratory conditions.
  • Skin conditions: Stress and anxiety can influence the skin and exacerbate various skin conditions. Common examples include acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rosacea. Stress can also delay wound healing, increase the likelihood of skin infections, and contribute to premature aging of the skin.
  • Digestive problems: Stress and anxiety can disrupt the digestive system. It can trigger or worsen symptoms of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), causing abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. Stress hormones can also affect digestion and nutrient absorption, potentially leading to nutrient deficiencies.

The impact of stress and anxiety on physical health varies from person to person. Some individuals may be more susceptible to certain conditions than others, making it important to speak to your doctor for guidance. To complement your treatment, different relaxation strategies and lifestyle adjustments could make a positive change in your overall well-being.

Effects of Depression on Physical Health

How does mental health affect physical health when it comes to depression? Like stress and anxiety, depression is a mental health ailment that can have a negative impact on both mental and physical well-being. Primarily affecting the mind, it can also manifest physically, leading to a range of symptoms. 

Some of the most common physical health ailments that stem from depression include:

  • Chronic Pain: Depression can often be accompanied by physical pain that is not linked to any specific injury or illness. While the exact reasons are still unknown, many experts believe it could be caused by neurotransmitter imbalances and changes in how your mind registers pain. Chronic pain conditions commonly associated with depression include headaches, back pain, muscle aches, and joint pain.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired and lacking energy is a common physical manifestation of depression known as fatigue. Those living with depression may find it challenging to perform daily activities they could otherwise perform. Depression can contribute to physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation which worsens the feelings of fatigue.
  • Sleep disorders: People living with depression may also develop common sleep disorders like insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness). Not getting enough restorative sleep can compound the way mental health affects physical health, causing soreness, low energy levels, and mood swings.
  • Weight changes: Depression can affect appetite and eating patterns. Some individuals may experience a loss of appetite leading to unintentional weight loss while others may have increased cravings and overeat, leading to weight gain.
  • Physical inactivity: Alongside other symptoms, depression can often lead to a lack of motivation and interest in activities which results in decreased physical activity levels. For example, those living with depression may find themselves sitting for prolonged periods of time, ignoring exercise, or being unmotivated to start their day. These sedentary behaviors can contribute to physical health problems like weight gain, cardiovascular issues, and muscle weakness.
  • Sexual performance: Lowered sexual desire, arousal, and performance are also physical manifestations of depression.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s crucial to seek out help from a medical professional right away. In addition to their treatment plan, small lifestyle adjustments like making time for self-care or completing physical activities may help improve your overall well-being.

Methods to Help Improve Mental Health and Reduce Stress

Learning answers to the question, “how does mental health affect physical health?” isn’t the last step towards wellness. Taking steps to improve mental health and reduce stress is vital. These steps don’t have to be too time-consuming or take over your life. In fact, they can be simple tasks like taking breaks to reduce work-related stress or meditating for a few minutes each day.

  • Meditate: Meditation is a popular method for improving mental health and could boost your physical well-being, too. Mindfulness meditation aims to keep you fully present in the moment and observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Even a few minutes of meditation helps calm the mind, reduce stress, and promote emotional well-being.
  • Stay active: Physical activity is not only beneficial for physical health but also has a positive impact on mental well-being. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. Find activities you enjoy like walking, jogging, dancing, or yoga, and incorporate them into your daily routine.
  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is a crucial factor when it comes to how mental health affects physical health. Good quality sleep improves cognitive abilities and elevates your mood while also preventing ailments like muscle tension caused by stress.
  • Be social: Connecting with friends and family is important to your mental well-being. Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to connect with individuals in person or long distance. Being social improves your mental health and could help you physically feel better, too.
  • Try relaxation techniques: Finding ways to relax using different techniques is vital to lowering stress levels. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.
  • Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul. This could be taking a warm bath, journaling, or using a massage chair to relax and recharge. Integrating self-care activities into your routine creates a healthy habit that promotes holistic health.

Massage as a Stress Reduction Technique

Daily stress reduction techniques are important for handling acute stress and anxiety. Over time, they can become healthy habits that support your overall well-being. What about long-term stress reduction techniques, however?

One of the best ways to take control over how mental health affects physical health in your life is discovering how full body massages reduce stress. Getting massages regularly is not vanity. It’s a self-care activity that impacts your mind and body from top to bottom. Massage helps with stress reduction, anxiety relief, alleviating pain, reducing muscle tension, and stimulating blood flow for faster recovery.

With busy schedules, however, how are you supposed to add regular massage therapy appointments to your routine? In place of trying to force traditional massage therapy appointments into the mix, many people have turned to owning a massage chair. Today’s luxury massage chairs have eliminated many of the differences between using a massage chair vs human massage. They allow you to experience the mental health benefits of massage on your schedule and without the added stressors you could experience going to and from appointments that undo all the good a massage does.

So how does mental health affect physical health? As you’ve learned, the two are intertwined, forever representing the connection of mind and body. To take care of yourself, you need to find the balance from both sides that leads to health and happiness. Remember that everyone's journey to mental health and stress reduction is unique. It's important to experiment with different techniques and find what works best for you to improve your overall well-being.

Curious about using a massage chair for your home? Compare massage chair models and see which one is right for you.

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