When people consider their health they are often only thinking about their physical wellbeing. The truth is that mental health and physical health are immutably linked, for better or for worse. A disruption in your mental health can have a serious impact on your physical state of wellbeing, and vice versa. Knowing how to spot lasting psychological conditions, and seeking proper treatment may just prolong your life as well.
But how is it that they are linked? Sure, the brain controls the body, but can something like a personality disorder or depression actually damage an organ like the heart enough to take years off a person’s life?
The short answer is yes. A study in 2006 found that people suffering from severe mental illnesses (something like schizophrenia) die, on average, 25 years before the general population. Yet even milder forms of mental illnesses can affect quality of life.
How the Mind Impacts the Body
Conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders can alter sleep patterns, decrease energy levels, and largely impact your immune system. A disrupted sleep pattern, combined with decreased energy levels will often lead to weight gain. The combination of disrupted sleep and an increase in weight can put tremendous pressure on your heart.
Many medications prescribed for mental conditions also have side effects that can impact weight gain, and even alter heart rhythms. This combined with an inactive lifestyle and unhealthy diet can result in a stressed mind, a stressed body and a heart working overtime. A body under this level of tension can only remain healthy for so long.
More severe mental conditions will often have more severe physical consequences. Eating disorders, for example, can alter an individual’s self-perception so intensely that it can disrupt a person’s diet in a lethal way. The consequence is eating to excess, or starving oneself.
How the Body Impacts the Mind
General health can also affect mental wellbeing. Issues like obesity can alter an individual’s self-perception, causing a decrease in perceived self-worth. This will often lead to depression, which simply perpetuates the cycle.
Poor physical health can also affect the impact of medical treatment. An individual actively engaging in an active, healthy lifestyle has a greater chance of finding success in treatment than an individual who is not.
If you suffer from a psychological condition, or think you may, it is crucial that you receive an evaluation from a doctor. That is the first step to getting and staying healthy. Becoming healthier mentally, and strengthening your confidence will not only improve the quality of your life, but will increase its longevity as well.