Science and research support the notion that your mental health can have an effect on your physical health, so making sure to manage and monitor both your mental and physical health is important for feeling your best, especially if you have a chronic disease or condition.
Have you ever noticed that when you feel down in the dumps emotionally or mentally, it can impact your physical health or behavior?
For example, when you’re heartbroken or sad about something, have you noticed it can make you feel tired, physical pain, or develop other symptoms, such as stomach or headache?
Science backs up what many of us have long felt. Your mental health can have an effect on your physical health, and the reverse is true as well.
One study stated that those who said they faced symptoms of depression also reported three times as many chronic physical conditions. And those who have an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to visit the doctor than those who don’t have one.
Making sure that you’re in the best possible health means taking care of both your physical and mental health needs.
What Studies and Stats Say About the Effect of Mental Health on Your Physical Health and Life
There are a number of studies and statistics that reveal a strong tie between physical and mental health.
- About a third of patients with a serious physical condition develop or display symptoms of depression.
- If you have a chronic disease or condition, you also have a higher risk of depression.
- 33 percent of heart attack patients develop depression.
- About 25 percent of people with diabetes and up to 40 percent of cancer patients are diagnosed with depression.
- Up to half of patients who experience chronic pain have depression.
- Depression can actually be an early symptom of a number of different chronic diseases and conditions, such as Parkinson's, dementia, heart disease, cancer, and thyroid conditions.
- Certain medicines and hormonal changes can also trigger depression.
- Healthcare costs for people with both chronic diseases and depression are higher on average. For instance, treating patients who had both diabetes and depression cost 4.5 times more than treating diabetes patients who did not exhibit those symptoms.
Being aware of your mental health issues can help you better manage your chronic conditions or general health as well.
Recognize the Symptoms of Depression or Other Mental Health Concerns
If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic disease or condition, you might think feeling sad or anxious is just a normal part of life now. But that doesn’t have to be your reality.
Did you know the World Health Organization recognized depression as the world’s leading cause of “ill health and disability?” Depression is one of the most common mental health illnesses and impacts millions of people and their loved ones.
A useful list, pulled from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, can help you determine if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression that might require you to seek mental health support from a counselor or other professional.
Take note of whether you or a loved one exhibits changes in behavior that include “five or more of the following symptoms during the same two-week period:”
- Depressed mood
- Decreased interest or pleasure
- Substantial weight loss or weight gain
- Psychomotor retardation (a slowing down of physical and mental activity) or agitation
- Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness during the day or excessive time spent sleeping)
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempt
For a list of symptoms of mental health problems other than depression, such as anxiety or mood disorders, visit MentalHealth.gov.
Not Finding Mental Health Support Can Negatively Impact Other Areas of Your Life
Despite increasing education and mental health awareness efforts, there is still a negative stigma surrounding mental health conditions. This stigma can prevent many from trying to find support for mental health needs out of fear they’ll be judged or labelled.
You shouldn’t let fear, shame, pride, or the ignorance of others hold you back from finding the right mental health support and services. Not addressing your mental health needs or making sure to actively engage in self-care activities can be detrimental to all areas of your life, your physical health for sure, but also your relationships, hobbies, or work.
For example, children who don’t receive treatment for their anxiety disorders have greater odds of underperforming in school, skipping significant social experiences, or becoming substance abusers.
And each year people miss 200 million days of work due to depression, not counting missed days or lower productivity due to other mental health illnesses.
The best course of treatment for mental health issues varies among different individuals. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to mental health, so you shouldn’t feel pressured to copy someone else’s idea of the right treatment.
You should have an open discussion with your healthcare provider about your symptoms and health goals, and that includes your desire to manage your mental health. A provider can offer additional information and resources related to mental health support and services for you to take advantage of.
Trying to hide your mental health needs or isolating yourself to avoid being a burden to anyone else or to shield yourself from judgment will only worsen your condition.
To find mental health support resources, reach out to a healthcare provider or take advantage of the following:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255
Veterans Crisis Line - 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1