How does poor mental health affect physical health?


When we talk about mental health, we commonly think of only anxiety and stress. But in reality, mental health is not bound to temporary stress. Instead, it affects the entire body functions and its system. Sometimes, it affects the patient’s cardiac health, and other times it causes respiratory disorders. But since we fail to realize the real reason, we struggle to manage these problems effectively. To better understand this concept, the following are some examples of how mental health affects physical health:

  1. Stress-induced digestive problems

The majority of people commonly complain of some digestive problem when they are under stress. For some, the anxiety causes constipation, while others suffer from diarrhea and nausea. A typical example of this anxiety-induced digestive disturbance is stage fright. Often, when new performers step onto the stage, they experience tummy rumbles. Sometimes, it is so evident that they leave their performance altogether. But this problem doesn’t end here. It is only one symptom of it. If you have a more in-depth look into this issue, you will see how stress messes up our gut. Because it causes the release of fight and flight hormones, it speeds up our body functions. As a result, gut motility increases, and you feel pain or cramps in your stomach. While this may seem like a small effect, it can cause severe problems in the long run. It explains why patients who suffer from clinical depression take medication to control gut motility within normal ranges.

  1. Cardiovascular manifestations

It is a common understanding that poor mental health leads to heart problems. When a person is anxious, this stress produces an excessive burden on the heart muscles. As a result, you feel palpitations and chest tightness, as commonly experienced in panic attacks. After one or two episodes, the damage done to the heart begins reverting. But if you don’t manage the stress early on, it modifies your heart to work at a higher rate continuously. And when this happens, you feel tachycardic and anxious all the time. It explains why doctors prescribe beta-blockers and other pulse lowering agents during the depression and anxiety bouts. Cardiac and mental illness’s interrelationship gets extensively discussed in bachelors in psychology courses and master’s programs. Every psychologist has to learn the complexities of cardiac problems to cure the ones caused by stress. Similarly, doctors get trained to differentiate between stress-induced and pathologies to provide better care to the patients.

  1. Autoimmune diseases

One of the most dangerous ways of how mental health affects physical health includes autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune disorders are collectively the diseases in which our body’s immune system starts attacking its cells. Meaning, instead of fighting with external attacks, your body starts attacking itself. As a consequence, the patient suffers from severe pain and other devastating symptoms. These disorders are genetic but get initiated because of any trigger that is mostly stress or mental conditions. When your body is under mental tension, your brain senses fear of attack and increases the number of white blood cells. These immune cells usually fight off bacteria and other infections, but now they start killing normal body cells.

An autoimmune disease usually targets the most sensitive part of the body, for example, hair in alopecia. And once a person develops autoimmunity, it is infrequent to reverse the effects of it. But since it is a product of stress in the first place, people usually observe a reduction in their symptoms after anxiety control. Another point to mention here is that autoimmune conditions are mostly incurable. Thus, people with uncontrollable stress need to cope with it before any changes appear in the body.

  1. Hormonal imbalance

Our body tends to deal with any emergency with little to no problem. In emergencies, our brain signals the body to release specific hormones that help resolve the issues. These hormones are called stress hormones and include glucocorticoids and cortisol. When the body is busy fighting any emergency, these hormones regulate body functions and provide the required energy. But when a person has poor mental health, his brain loses control of these hormones. As a result, his body releases these hormones even when they are not needed. And this unwanted release of such strong chemicals leads to destructive changes in the body. It includes a reduction in signal transmission between the brain and endocrine glands. It predisposes to a weak response from the endocrine system when the body needs it. In a nutshell, poor mental health leads to disturbance in brain activity and its connection with other body parts. If these conditions get treated in the early stages, the effects reverse with medication. But if a person ignores his mental health and avoids treatments, it can lead to severe physical health deterioration.


The above-described conditions are a few examples of how poor mental health affects physical health. Mental illnesses not only affect a person’s mental health but also deteriorates their overall wellbeing. And if left untreated, these problems can produce irreversible damage to the body. It is why individuals dealing with mental issues should consult with a professional as soon as possible.

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