Studies show that, on average, women suffering from mental health conditions have their lifespan shortened by 7 years.
Fortunately, treating mental health disorders — either through therapy, medications, or a combination of both — has been shown to improve symptoms and prevent the development of other conditions.
Below, we asked our experts at the Washington Center for Women’s and Children’s Wellness to explain how depression and anxiety can impact a person’s physical health.
Understanding depression and anxiety
Depression is a disorder in which you may feel a lingering sadness and hopelessness even in the absence of any apparent reason.
Anxiety is characterized by fear and feelings of being overwhelmed. These negative reactions can occur when you’re exposed to social situations, for example, or they can occur after a traumatic event. Anxiety can also manifest itself in obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as frequent hand-washing and obsessive, intrusive thoughts.
Anxiety may increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease
When you’re chronically anxious, your body switches to fight-or-flight mode. Your mind prepares you to face a threat, but the threat never arrives. Therefore, the conflict remains unresolved, and its effects on the body persist.
When your body is in this state, it secretes cortisol, the stress hormone. This hormone tells your body to shut down nonessential mechanisms and focus on the threat.
Unfortunately, when anxiety is chronic, these mechanisms continue to malfunction. Your body becomes less insulin sensitive and more likely to experience blood sugar issues. Digestion stops, and fat storage increases.
Cortisol controls blood pressure in a dose-dependent fashion. The more anxious you are, the larger the spike in blood pressure.
High blood pressure damages the veins and the artery walls, increasing the risk of poor blood flow and oxygenation to the heart.
Depression may raise risk for inflammation and digestion problems
Researchers aren’t sure why, but depression seems to be correlated with a higher inflammation level in the body.
As a consequence, the immune system becomes dysregulated, causing issues in the gut as well. Depressed people are more likely to suffer from Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Learn more about how anxiety and depression can impact your body
Anxiety and depression can lead to numerous symptoms, including trouble sleeping, overeating or undereating, and sexual problems. All of these symptoms can stress the body even further, causing a vicious cycle that increases the risk for disease.
Fortunately, with the right guidance, you can live a fulfilling life, even when battling a mental health disorder. Contact us to schedule an appointment to see how we can help you get better.