It is a common misconception that mental health only affects our minds. Mental health is directly linked with physical health. With in-depth research on mental health issues, more and more evidence is found indicating that many health conditions worsen due to an undiagnosed mental illness.
The chemical changes that happen in the body due to a mental illness can cause physical repercussions. Living with a mental disorder can make certain changes to your lifestyle that can have an adverse effect on your physical health.
Prolonged mental health issues can disrupt your physical health in the following ways.
1. Drug Abuse
Drug abuse is often linked with mental health issues. Alcohol and drugs taken recreationally don’t necessarily cause a problem. The problem occurs when you get dependent on the drugs.
Untreated mental health issues may cause a person to rely on drugs as an escape and alternative to treatment. People who suffer from depression and anxiety usually take refuge in the euphoria provided by intoxicating substances to help them escape from their feelings. Consequently, this disrupts their mental health even further. Such episodes can increase in number if the issues go undetected for a long time. Prolonged drug abuse can damage the kidneys and liver functions, causing chronic liver and kidney diseases.
Many platforms like Delphi Health Group specializes in rehab programs for people who suffer from substance abuse. Such platforms also focus on psychological treatment for substance abuse after a complete body detox.
2. Excessive Smoking
Same as drug abuse, people with a history of mental illness may try to drown their sorrows by smoking excessively. This not only gives rise to anxiety syndrome, but it also does irreparable damage to the respiratory system.
Research shows that people with mental illnesses are most likely to suffer from chronic respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis. This is because nicotine helps control symptoms of anxiety.
Nicotine helps calm nerves and the smoking period allows the person to clear their mind. After a while, people start finding it addictive, while nicotine starts doing irreversible damage to the lungs.
3. Misdiagnosis Due to Similar Symptoms
Nervousness, palpitations, sweating, fatigue – do these symptoms ring a bell? If you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, you may experience these symptoms more often than you care to admit.
Fatigue is considered normal. One hard day at work or school can exhaust you. Unfortunately, recurring symptoms are precursors to some acute physical diseases as well. In such cases, misdiagnosis is common.
Mental illnesses can also cause pain and aches all over your body. These are known as psychosomatic pains. Pain is also experienced if the body is in some kind of physical distress. If left untreated, it can turn into chronic muscular and joint pain.
Unfortunately, many doctors fail to diagnose a physical illness because of your previous records of mental illnesses. This happens especially when you are suffering from a rare disease. An example of such a disease is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. The common symptoms include fatigue, headache, and other flu-like symptoms. Such symptoms are normally ignored and doctors don’t even run tests to check them.
4. Hormonal Imbalance
Mental health issues can both cause and are caused by an imbalance in the secretion of certain neurotransmitters and hormones. If it occurs continuously for some time, this imbalance starts to alter other vital body functions as well. The most common example is diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes occurs when your body is unable to use insulin. This causes an increase in blood sugar that can not be controlled without medication. Various studies show that diabetes and mental illnesses are often interlinked. Stress affects your blood glucose level in different ways. In some cases, it elevates glucose levels, while in others, it lowers them. This imbalance can greatly affect insulin production, causing type 2 diabetes.
Cardiovascular diseases are also known to occur due to prolonged mental stress. High stress and anxiety can increase adrenaline in the blood, increasing the heart rate. If left untreated for long, it can result in hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
5. Unhealthy Eating Habits
Eating disorders are commonly diagnosed in people who already suffer from depression and anxiety. Added stress can result in ‘stress eating’, which means a person constantly consumes food that has no nutritious value, resulting in chronic deficiencies and obesity. Obesity is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases all over the world.
Vitamin D deficiency is most common in people who already have a calcium deficiency. Low calcium and vitamin D levels can later result in bone diseases. Vitamin D is also essential for neurotransmitters like serotonin to function properly. Lack of serotonin is linked to major depressive disorder.
Mental and physical health are often interrelated to each other. To neglect one means you are neglecting the other. To live a healthy life, you must keep your overall health checked and balanced.
Never let your mental health issues simmer for long, for they can have drastic consequences on your health in the future.