How Mental Health Affects Physical Health

how mental health affects physical health

It’s often hard to keep your physical health in check when you’re feeling mentally ill. That’s why it’s important to understand how your mental health affects your physical health and what you can do to improve both.

People with mental illness face a greater risk of developing a range of chronic physical conditions compared to the general population. This is due to the way mental illnesses impact biological processes, as well as social determinants of health.


Stress is the body’s natural reaction to threats or situations that are out of our control. When you feel stressed, your hypothalamus signals your central nervous system to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

These hormones increase your heart rate and breathing, and cause your muscles to tighten. They also boost your immune system and help you fight off infections and heal wounds quickly.

However, over time, chronic stress can have serious consequences for your health. It can contribute to conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, and can make certain diseases worse.

Stress can come from a variety of sources, including work or school challenges, major life events and relationship problems. Getting help from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or counselor, can help you cope with stress better.


Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems. It’s estimated that nearly 1 in 5 adults has an anxiety disorder. It can include panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.

Anxiety can also be a symptom of other mental health conditions like depression or PTSD. It can be treated with therapy and medications.

People with anxiety disorders have a higher risk for physical health issues. This is because the stress hormone system that activates the “fight or flight” response in normal circumstances becomes overactive.

These reactions to everyday stressors can trigger immune system problems that increase the risk for physical diseases such as heart disease, gastrointestinal illnesses, and respiratory illness. Research continues to investigate the relationship between anxiety and physical health, in hopes of finding new treatments that will help prevent these co-morbidities.


Depression is a common mental health problem that can affect everyone in different ways. It can include feeling tearful, hopeless and a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.

People with a long-term physical illness such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease may also experience depression. This can be difficult to manage as depression can make your symptoms worse or cause you to feel more stressed.

Many people with depression report aches and pains as a part of their symptoms. They might experience joint pain, back pain, digestive problems or sleep trouble.

Aside from these symptoms, depression can also have a negative impact on the immune system. This can lead to a weaker response to the body’s normal stress hormones and increase your risk of developing other conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.

If you have a combination of physical health issues and depression, it’s important to get help and support from a doctor experienced in treating both conditions. A combined treatment approach, combining medication, therapy and lifestyle changes, can help you to feel better and manage your physical and mental health.


Everyone loses their temper from time to time, but when it occurs chronically, it can cause a lot of harm. It can cause depression, headaches and other long-term health problems.

Anger is a strong emotion that can be caused by annoyance, disappointment or feelings of hurt. It can also be caused by a negative experience, such as losing your job or a loved one.

When anger is uncontrolled, it can lead to physical abuse or violence against others. It can also create a lot of stress in relationships and lead to drug or alcohol abuse.

It can also harm your lungs, especially if you smoke. According to researchers, angry people have more inflammation in their airways and a harder time breathing than non-hostile people.

To cope with angry outbursts, try to find ways to shift perspective, like cognitive reframing or looking for other people’s points of view. Other stress management techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, can help as well.