How Depression and Anxiety Impact Your Physical Health

Anxiety and depression can put you at risk for many physical health issues.

While most people think of depression and anxiety as mental health issues, both disorders can impact your physical health, too. Some classic symptoms of depression are physical issues, such as increased aches and pain, chronic fatigue, and insomnia.

Depression and anxiety are the most prevalent mental health disorders in the United States, with anxiety disorders in the number one slot. More than 40 million American adults have some type of anxiety disorder. And people with an anxiety disorder are more likely to also have depression and vice versa. About 50% of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety disorder.

What is depression?

There are several different types of depression including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) with major depressive disorder being the most common of them all.

While many people experience low and depressed moods now and then, a diagnosis of major depressive disorder indicates that your feelings of sadness are accompanied by other issues, such as insomnia or fatigue, and that your mood is persistent.

What is anxiety?

There are also several different types of anxiety disorder. Phobias and social anxiety disorder are the most common types of anxiety after generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. When you have an anxiety attack, your physical body is affected. Your heart rate and breathing rate both accelerate, your muscles tense up, and your blood flow is diverted to your brain.

When your body is on high alert like this, it’s usually responding to an emergency, so it’s a good thing to function at a high level. But when this condition happens too often during situations that are not emergencies, such as during public speaking or when you’re socializing at a party, it can affect your health and mental well-being.

Ways depression and anxiety impact your physical health

Depression and anxiety affect the way your brain functions, and both your emotions and brain function are closely tied to physical health and bodily functions. For example, stress, depression, and anxiety can keep you up at night, causing insomnia and the associated problems that come along with sleeplessness, such as daytime fatigue and problems focusing or concentrating.

Depression and anxiety can:

Increase your risk for heart disease

Many studies link anxiety to a higher risk of heart attacks and a higher risk of dying from one. One study showed that people with anxiety disorders had double the chance of having a heart attack as those without an anxiety disorder. If you’re taking medication for a heart condition, research shows that it’s more challenging to follow a medication schedule if you have depression.

Decrease your interest in sex

Among the many pleasures in life that depression robs you of, sexual activity is one of the most common ones. Taking antidepressants to treat your depression can also lower your libido.

Increase or decrease your appetite

Some people tend to overeat, or binge eat, when they’re anxious and depressed, leading to health issues associated with being overweight and obese. Others tend to lose their appetite, leaving them with low energy and sometimes unintended weight loss.

Weaken your immune system

Depression can lower your immune system making it more difficult for your body to fight colds and infections as well as more serious issues, such as heart disease.

Contribute to gastrointestinal disorders

Because depression can lead to a change in your appetite, it can also affect your digestive system, because the brain and the stomach have a strong connection. Feeling nervous or anxious can create a butterfly feeling in your stomach. But ongoing anxiety and depression can cause more severe symptoms such as heartburn, abdominal cramps, bloating, constipation, or loose stools.

Fortunately, treating your anxiety and depression can lead to improvements in both mental and physical health. If you live in the Houston area and want more information on treatment for depression and anxiety, call Progressive Behavioral Health at one of our offices in Friendswood or Houston. Or you can click the button to make an appointment online while you’re here on the website.

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