How Anxiety and Depression Affect Our Physical Health
Do you know depression and anxiety are just as bad for your health as smoking and obesity? In today’s modern and fast-paced life, it has become normal to feel anxious, stressed, and depressed quite often. But if these feelings continue for more than two weeks, it becomes a serious problem.
According to recent researches, clinical depression, which is often left untreated, can disrupt your daily activities and may seriously impact your physical health. But, what exactly anxiety and depression are and how it impacts your well-being?
It’s a common belief that depression and anxiety are only mental health issues and doesn’t impact our physical well-being. However, the latest studies have found that both disorders can severely impact your physical health also. Depression, the most common mental health illnesses in the United States, is technically a mental disorder which also affects your entire body, especially if left untreated.
The effects of these mental disorders on a person’s physical health were examined by Aoife O’Donovan, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, and her colleague Andrea Niles. According to their findings that were published in Health Psychology, the journal of the American Psychological Association, people suffering from high levels of anxiety and depression are 65 percent more likely to develop a heart condition. Moreover, these people are 50 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure, and 87 percent more likely to have arthritis.
Now, before we discuss these physical issues further, let’s first understand these two mental disorders a bit more.
Depression and Anxiety
Usually, people find it difficult to determine if they have anxiety or depression. This happens because both anxiety and depression share a lot in common, but they are separate conditions. However, in most cases, depression and anxiety disorders occur together. So, the best way to understand the difference between the two disorders is by identifying the primary symptoms.
Depression is of several different types such as major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Some classic symptoms of depression are physical issues, such as increased aches and pain, chronic fatigue, and insomnia.
Anxiety is also of different types with phobias and social anxiety disorder being the most common ones. During an anxiety attack, the heart rate and breathing rate both accelerate, muscles tense up, and the blood flow is diverted to the brain.
Impact of Depression and Anxiety on Physical Health
Both depression and anxiety not only affect the way our brain functions but also impacts our physical health. This is because human emotions and brain function are closely linked to physical health and bodily functions. The most common effects of these disorders on the physical health of a person are as follows:
1. Higher Risk of Heart Diseases
People with severe anxiety are at a higher risk of heart attacks. This happens because the stress hormones increase the heart rate and make blood vessels tighten. When the body remains in such a state for a prolonged period of time, it may lead to heart diseases.
2. Decreased Interest in Sex
It is also seen that the sex drive in people suffering from these disorders decreases significantly.
3. Change in Appetite
People diagnosed with anxiety or depression tends to either overeat or lose their appetite. Overeating when anxious or depressed results in gaining weight. While a decrease in appetite causes weight loss.
4. Weakens Immune System
Depression can lower your immune system and leaves your body more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses.
5. Gastrointestinal Disorders
Due to the change in appetite, the digestive system gets impacted. This happens because our brain and stomach are connected and a persistent state of anxiety and depression can cause heartburn, abdominal cramps, bloating, constipation, or loose stools.