How Does Mental Health Affect Physical Health?

If you’ve ever had the flu or have suffered from a chronic ailment, you can likely remember days feeling sad or depressed, wondering when you will feel better. If you’ve ever had symptoms of depression, you may also notice aches and pains in your muscles or bones. When your body feels bad, your mind feels bad, and vice versa.

Mental health and physical health are linked. There is plenty of research supporting the connection. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Neglecting your mental health can lead to neglecting your physical health. In a study of over 15,000 participants, 16 percent had high levels of anxiety and depression. This group was found to be 65% more likely to develop a heart condition, 64% more likely to have a stroke, 50% more likely to develop high blood pressure, and 87% more likely to have arthritis.

Since poor mental health leads to poor physical health, that also means positive mental health can lead to positive physical health. So what can you do to improve both? We provide suggestions below, but first, it’s essential to fully understand what mental and physical health means.

Mental Health vs. Physical Health

Mental health refers to emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Your mental health is influenced by several factors, including biological, environmental, and genetics. It is based on the theory that your thoughts affect your feelings, and feelings influence behaviors.

For example, if you think it is terrible to be overweight, you may find yourself criticizing your eating habits. Doing so makes you feel sad, angry, or like you are a failure because you can’t eat right to lose weight. This negative self-talk makes you feel even worse and may lead to unhealthy behaviors, like developing an eating disorder.

Physical health refers to the body and how well the different parts of the body function. Overall physical health includes assessing your organs, hormones, blood flow, and many other functions needed to complete daily tasks.

Now, let’s look at specific mental health conditions that influence physical health.


Depression is a common mental health condition. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad or empty for longer than two weeks, which is not related to a particular situation.

Feeling depressed is normal. When the signs of depression do not go away after a significant period, you may have clinical depression. For example, if you lose someone you love, it is natural to be depressed. As time goes on, however, your depression starts to lift. If your symptoms have not improved or have gotten worse over time, then you may be struggling with depression.

Depression affects many different parts of the body. For example, you may have difficulty concentrating or remembering, a weakened immune system, muscle pain, lowered sex drive, weight changes, insomnia, and an increased risk for heart-related disorders.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can save your life. For example, let’s say you are put in a dangerous situation. When you feel stressed or anxious, your fight or flight reactions will activate and help you decide how to survive. However, when your fight or flight sensors are working overtime or when there is no apparent danger, it begins to affect the body negatively.

There are multiple forms of anxiety disorders. All can lead to a sense of doom, panic attacks, and even obsessive-compulsive behaviors. In addition, anxiety causes physical ailments like headaches, pounding heart, breathing problems, digestive problems, nausea, vomiting, decreased sex drive, increased blood pressure, muscle aches, pains, and extreme fatigue.

The longer mental health conditions like depression and anxiety go untreated; your physical health can become more severe.

The good news is that treatment for mental health disorders is available, and you can see positive results quickly. Below are the treatments available to improve mental health symptoms.


For some, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicines are needed to help rebalance the chemicals or neurotransmitters in your brain, like Serotonin. Psychiatrists prescribe medications. They can help you become clear-minded and give you the boost you need to focus on other treatments, like therapy.

Mental Health Therapy

Working with a licensed mental health counselor helps you understand the disorder for which you are struggling. In addition, you can learn coping skills and build confidence. Together, you will work on changing your thought processes from negative to positive. Remember, thoughts influence feelings and behaviors.

Your therapist will help you achieve this through techniques like cognitive-behavioral, dialectical-behavioral, and motivational enhancement therapies. If there are past traumas you have not yet dealt with, therapy is the safe place to do it. Using trauma-focused therapies, you can move past the trauma and start enjoying your life again.

Outside of therapy, there are things you can do to improve mental and physical health. However, it takes a commitment to self-care, something you deserve and can start doing today.


Self-care involves specific actions you can implement that help you cope with life’s ups and downs and feel better inside and out.

Self-care activities include getting quality sleep, eating better, exercising more, and enjoying yourself. Get massages, take a yoga class, meditate, and pick up a fun hobby. If it can produce positive results, do it. Self-care also means avoiding harmful activities like drinking alcohol or using drugs, severely damaging the mind and body.

If you are currently drinking and using drugs, it’s never too late to stop. However, if you have tried to stop on your own but found it difficult, help is available. Reach out to your local mental health center for guidance.

In conclusion, you can be healthy both physically and mentally. You can start today by doing any of the following: call a treatment facility for help, enjoy the outdoors, do something nice for yourself, or keep researching ideas on how to improve your health.

Most importantly, don’t wait to start working towards a healthier mental and physical state.