Six Ways Mental Illness Influences Physical Health

People tend to view mental and physical health as two separate entities but in reality, the two are more closely related than we think. Studies have found that the mental health of patients who suffer from chronic illnesses like arthritis, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and cancer, may begin to deteriorate in some cases. By the same principle, an individual’s mental health condition may take a toll on their physical health as well. Listed below are six ways in which mental illness directly impacts an individual’s physical health.

1. Mental Illness Is Associated With Decreased Life Expectancy

One in every five adults in the U.S. suffers from some form of mental illness every year. Studies have found that individuals suffering from depression are more likely to encounter premature death than individuals without any history of mental disorders. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reports that the connection between depression and decreased life expectancy was most intense in the years following the depressive episode. Various studies also suggest that the cause for shorter lifespan may be as a result of unhealthy practices like poor diet, inactivity, excessive smoking and drinking. Mortality rates may also be higher as people with mental illness have increased suicide rates and increased risk of heart disease.

2. Depression May Increase Risk Of Heart Disease

Depression has been linked to increased risk of death from heart disease. Although it is not easy to determine the exact cause for this outcome, one of the explanations has been the increased levels of stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline- in depressed individuals. It is also likely that individuals with depression may not be able to self-administer the necessary medication to take care of themselves.

3. Depression Causes Increased Sensitivity To Pain

Studies have found that individuals suffering from depression may perceive pain with greater intensity than those without mental illness. This may be as a result of the abnormal functioning of neurotransmitters like serotonin which affect several bodily functions including mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire. As a result of their increased sensitivity to pain, mental illness affects an individual’s ability to fight off chronic diseases.

4. Depression Increases Risk Of Addiction

Poor mental health affects an individual’s ability to make healthy decisions for themselves. This leaves them at risk of developing an addiction to practices like excessive smoking, drinking, and drug abuse. They may also suffer health issues as a result of inconsistent eating habits as a result of their decreased appetite.

5. Mental Illness May Affect Quality Of Sleep

As a result of the change in serotonin levels in the body, quality of sleep is deeply affected. Lack of sleep begins to affect the health of the individual in question by increasing risk of heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure among several other issues. Sleep deprivation may also weaken the immune system thereby causing the individual to be more susceptible to contracting diseases.

6. Depression May Make An Existing Health Condition Worse

Several patients who suffer from chronic illnesses like arthritis, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and cancer, may also experience depressive episodes. Studies have found that depression may also worsen a pre-existing health condition. Some studies have reported that people who suffer from both diabetes and depression have a harder time managing the condition and experience more intense symptoms.

A possible explanation for this outcome might be that people with depression are likely to perceive the pain that comes with the condition as more intense than mentally healthy individual. Mental illness may cause higher anxiety and stress levels which may impede necessary tissue repair.