Mental health refers to one’s social, emotional, and psychological well-being, and an individual’s mental vitality directly affects how they think, feel, and even act. Unfortunately, various factors can trigger Mental health problems, and studies identify physical pain as prevalent.

Other factors that contribute significantly to mental health problems include:
Life experiences such as abuse or trauma
Biological factors such as brain chemistry or genes
Family history of mental health issues

These psychological conditions are prevalent, but the good news is that help is available via the assistance of a mental health counsellor or mental health professional. In other words, people with mental health issues can get much better and even recover completely.

Mental Health and Its Connection to Physical Pain

Pain is a natural emotion that sentient organisms must endure, and as previously mentioned, this stimulus has a direct link to mental health degradation. Additionally, the overlap of depression, anxiety, and physical pain is more evident in chronic pain syndromes such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, nerve pain, and low back pain.

This post highlights the correlation between mental health, depression, anxiety, and physical health, including body pains and muscle tension. This involves discussing anxiety and depression and the physical symptoms each mental disorder causes in the human body.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Increased Heart Rate

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger and is a vital mental health condition required for survival. High levels of anxiety can trigger changes in the human body to help set the mood for dealing with danger and threats. This action is known as the ‘fight or flight response.’

However, if you live with chronic anxiety, your mind and body cannot distinguish between imagined and real dangers. In other words, your ‘fight or flight response’ will remain active, keeping you on high alert.

One of the first changes when your fight or flight response is activated, is an increased heart rate.

  • Muscle Aches

Tension causes joint pain and aches in the muscles, leading to an overall decline in health. Sadly, anxiety can force muscles to contract unnecessarily, resulting in stiffness and pain in nearly every part of the human body. 

Constant worry and stress can prevent your immune system from functioning correctly, thereby leading to an overall decreased resistance to diseases and infection. 

It’s worth noting that infection boosts inflammation in your body, which can trigger a wide range of symptoms, including severe joint pain.

  • Headaches

Tension, especially in the neck/shoulders, can lead to migraines and headaches. Other elements like facial pressure, teeth grinding, hyperventilation, and poor posture can also cause migraines and headaches.

This dull ache or pressure around the eyes and head are some of the symptoms linked with anxiety. Since anxiety is known to upset the body’s hormone balance, some women will notice the sudden increase in migraines due to hormonal changes.

  • Heart Palpitations

One of the most distressing – and disturbing – symptoms linked to anxiety is heart palpitations. They can be pretty scary as people can confuse them for a severe heart attack.

This worry and stress are further heightened when the heart’s vibrations are accompanied by severe chest pain. Ultimately, heart palpitations make you feel your heart fluttering, pounding, missing beats, or beating too fast.

Some individuals may even feel the sensation of their heartbeats in their throats, head, or even neck. However, despite being scary, heart palpitations usually pass after some seconds.

  • Dizziness

Hyperventilation can cause you to feel dizzy, unsteady, or even faint; however, muscle tension in your neck and shoulders, connected with anxiety, can also cause these sensations.

Nevertheless, most hyperventilated people may feel slightly lightheaded and worry that they might suddenly pass out during a panic attack. Therefore, it is not uncommon for people with an anxiety disorder to have balance problems and experience chronic dizziness.

  • Muscle Weakness

Chronic anxiety also instigates muscle weakness in the human body, and most people with this disorder experience this weakness in the arms and legs. 

The human body is usually prepared to take action when placed in a fight-and-flight situation. The body sets itself in this mode by redirecting blood flow to the most required areas, including the legs, to evade danger.

However, a sudden increase in blood flow to the legs can make them feel like jelly or weak and tingly.

  • Shortness of Breath

Another highly distressing symptom of anxiety is shortness of breath. This factor can also push people to mistakenly believe they are choking, having a heart attack, or experiencing severe problems with the lungs.

Shortness of breath is the inability to breathe properly, resulting in hyperventilation, rapidly inhaling and exhaling air. 

In truth, hyperventilation causes no harm to the human body; however, the action leaves you feeling a lump in your throat or a choking sensation

  • Digestive Discomfort

Anxiety and stress also cause bloating, excess gas, heartburn, stomach cramps, constipation, acid indigestion, and diarrhea. Even chronic stress –and other mental health problems – are linked to more than a few digestive problems, including IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

It’s also worth noting that anxiety can increase sensitivities and several symptoms of food intolerance in some individuals.

  • Tingling Sensations

Tingling and numbness and feelings of pins and needles on the flesh are also common anxiety symptoms. These highly uncomfortable sensations generally affect the extremities, though you can also experience them in other parts of your body.

A tingling on the face, lips, and arms is distressing as many individuals worry they might be having a stroke. Other odd sensations – including numbness and tingling – are associated with hyperventilation, though physical tension can also give rise to this uncomfortable sensation.

 

Depression and Physical Health

The American Psychological Association states that depression affects up to 14.8 million adults in America every year. It has been tagged as one of the most common mental health illnesses today.
Several factors can cause depression, including genetics, brain chemistry, exposure to childhood trauma, or stress. Unfortunately, people living with depression can only fully recover after seeking help from a mental health professional.

Only a few individuals even think about pairing depression with physical pain. Depression is usually paired with severe emotional pain like feelings of hopelessness, sadness, etc. However, in-depth research shows that this mental health illness can be excruciating.
Some cultures do not permit open discussions about mental health problems, while a few consider depression in terms of physical pain.

For instance, Asian Americans may likely understand and describe depression in terms of physical symptoms. This description can influence the type of treatment and who they seek such mental health treatment from. Coincidentally, this method is similar to the Western understanding of depression as a strong emotion.

Nevertheless, the emotional effects of depression are as crucial as the physical repercussions, which most people rarely discuss. These physical symptoms can send signals about the onset of a depressive period, providing you with the information necessary to make quick decisions regarding depression.

However, it also proves that physical symptoms and a mental health problem like depression can go hand-in-hand, revealing the severity of depression to your overall health or wellbeing.
Common physical symptoms of depression are as follows:

 

  • Decreased Level of Pain Tolerance

A study performed in 2015 revealed a statistical relation between individuals living with depression and decreased pain tolerance levels. Another analysis conducted in 2010 showed that pain has a much more significant impact on those living with depression.

There is no clear-cut cause-and-effect relationship between these two symptoms. However, evaluating them together is vital, especially if your physician recommends some medication.

Another research suggests that antidepressants can only act as analgesics to combat pain and do not relieve depression.

  • Decreasing Vision

It is on record that the environment may appear somewhat blurry if you are battling depression, and individuals with depression experience vision loss. Research conducted in 2010 and Germany suggested that this severe mental health condition can cause people with depression to have eye problems.

In that particular study, 80 individuals living with depression had great difficulty differentiating objects in black and white. This effect is referred to as ‘contrast perception’ and explains precisely why people with this mental health condition see the world in a hazy way.

  • Irregular Bowel Movements

Diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive problems can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Gut problems are often caused by gastrointestinal viruses or food poisoning, making it easy to link gut discomfort to a physical problem.

However, sadness and anxiety are emotions that can easily disrupt the digestive tract. According to a study, there is an apparent link between depression and gastrointestinal pain.

  • Stomach Pain

One of the most recognizable signs of depression is a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach. However, most people at the early stages of depression usually write it off as menstrual pain or gas when their abdomen cramps.

When stomach pain worsens, especially when there is a considerable increase in stress, it is a distinct sign of depression. According to researchers in Harvard Medical School, stomach discomfort like nausea, bloating, and cramps may be a sign of poor mental health.

But what is the link, you ask? The Harvard researchers established that depression might cause – or be the result of – inflamed digestive systems. The pain this generates is usually mistaken for illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.

Scientists and medical doctors often allude to the gut as the ‘second brain’ as they have successfully discovered a connection between mental wellbeing and gut health. Also, symptoms of depression and anxiety can give rise to imbalances of the good bacteria in the stomach.

Taking probiotics and eating a well-balanced diet can significantly improve your gut health, thereby enhancing your overall mood.

  • Back Pain

Stress or depression can make your backache despots you beginning the day with zero pain. While back pain is usually linked to injuries or bad sitting posture, it can be a discerning symptom of psychological distress.

A study of over 1,000 Canadian university students in 2017 established a direct link between backaches and depression.

The connection between the human body’s inflammatory response and depression confirms the belief of psychiatrists and psychologists that emotional issues can bring about pains and chronic aches.

Newer studies even suggest a link between neural circuits in the human brain and inflammation in the human body. Researchers currently imagine that inflammation interrupts brain signals, implying a significant role in severe depression and how the individual treats it.

  • Headaches

Nearly everyone experiences headaches from time to time, and it has become so common that most people wave them away as nothing serious. Stressful situations – such as conflicts with a boss or coworker – usually trigger these headaches.

However, stress does not always induce headaches, as this constant throb also functions as a sign of depression. Therefore, if you experience a sudden switch to daily headaches, it could signify the onset of depression.

When depression induces a headache, it is often not as excruciating as migraines and does not impair one’s functioning. According to the National Headache Foundation, this type of headache is referred to as ‘tension headaches. It usually feels like a mild throbbing sensation around the eyebrows.

You can sometimes alleviate these headaches with over-the-counter pills or medication, but they tend to recur regularly. It’s also worth noting that chronic tension headaches can also be a symptom of major depressive disorder.

Nevertheless, headaches are not the only indication that the physical pain in your head may be a mental health problem. People with depression frequently experience some symptoms like decreased energy, irritability, sadness, etc. 

  • Low Energy Levels or Fatigue

Fatigue is a common symptom of depression, making you want to remain at home and watch TV instead of heading to work.

Although exhaustion, at times, stems from stress, depression is sometimes linked to fatigue. Additionally, depression-related fatigue can bring about apathy, concentration problems, as well as feelings of irritability. People living with depression often have a non-restorative sleep, making them feel sluggish even after getting a full night’s rest.

However, since viruses and infections cause several physical illnesses that result in fatigue, it becomes challenging to discern where depression stems from. Ultimately, the only way to tell the difference is with the presence of other mental health symptoms like feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anhedonia (inability to experience any pleasure in regular day-to-day activities), etc.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, mental health problems can trigger physical health problems, body pains, and muscle tension. The correlation between mental health, anxiety, depression, and physical health has been fully established.

Having mental health problems can significantly affect your behaviour, thinking, and mood. Therefore, if you feel any physical pains, including muscle tension headaches, etc., they could be linked to depression or anxiety.

If you need mental health assistance or seek professional help, visit https://www.theraflow.ca.