Your mental state doesn’t only affect your mood and your emotional well-being, it has the power to have a direct impact on your physical health. Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression can have a detrimental effect on your physical body. In the same way you listen to your physical health when you’re injured or sick, be just as mindful of your mental health to ensure you stay healthy.
The mind-body connection is strong, take a look at the ways below in which anxiety and depression can affect your brain and your body.
How Anxiety Affects the Brain
Long-term anxiety and chronic panic attacks cause your brain to release stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, on a regular basis. This can cause headaches, dizziness, and depression. When you feel anxious, your brain floods your nervous system with stress hormones and it puts you in a constant state of fight-or-flight.
Chronic anxiety leads to structural degeneration in your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. This makes you more likely to develop neuropsychiatric disorders, such as dementia.
Stress hormones are fine for the occasional event, like when you need to respond to an actual threat. But long-term exposure to these hormones can be harmful to your physical health in the long run.
How Anxiety Affects the Body
Do you know that ‘butterflies your tummy’ feeling? Sometimes, it’s slight nervousness. Too much chronic anxiety can actually change the physiology of your digestive tract. It can affect the way your tract functions, can cause nausea so overpowering it makes you vomit, and in some cases, can cause intense pain and discomfort. Some studies show there may be a connection between anxiety disorders and the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
High cortisol levels can lead to rapid weight gain, making it harder to move and exercise. Anxiety can lead to sleep disorders, like insomnia or sleep apnea. These disorders in turn can lead to more problems for your physical health down the road. High cortisol also causes spikes in blood pressure and heart rate. This can increase your risk of developing heart disease.
What Depression Does to The Brain and The Body
Similar to anxiety, depression can also impact your brain and your body. Sometimes, anxiety and depression can go hand in hand and exacerbate the other. People with depression have lower levels of dopamine. Dopamine is what influences positive feelings in your brain. Because of this, your brain seeks out hits of dopamine more than others. Sometimes, dopamine sources have addictive tendencies, like cigarette smoking, alcohol or drug use.
Depression has been linked to a higher risk of chronic illnesses, including diabetes, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis. To make matters worse, depression can make dealing with chronic illness more difficult due to issues with motivation and desire. The mortality rate from cancer and heart disease is higher among people suffering from depression.
Take Care of Your Mental Health With The Couch
Getting the psychiatric care you need should be easy, stress-free, and uncomplicated. The Couch was created to ensure that happens. If you’re looking for help uncovering how depression and anxiety are affecting your daily life and your physical health, and need help managing it, subscribe to get notified when The Couch launches. When you answer a few simple questions, we can go to work and match your mental health symptoms with the best-fit psychiatrist on our team.