The Physical Impacts of Mental Illness

December 18 2017

Jacqueline Rosenhek


A clear distinction is often made between mind and body. But when considering mental health and physical health, the two should not be thought of as that separate. It is relatively well known that your mental health affects your health; it can actually have an unfortunate impact on ones quality of life both but not just mentally, physically as well. For those of you who have experienced mental illness and its fluctuations, you have probably experienced some of the more basic physical side effects such as digestive upsets, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, chest pain, heart palpitations, muscle stiffness and soreness, skin problems, messed up sleep schedules and a few others. Sadly, it could get a lot worse than most people are even willing to realize. Some physical side effects of mental illness include:

  • Obesity
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic pain
  • Nervous tics and twitching
  • Lowered immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Skin irritation
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lowered immune system


Because of a few of these factors, the lifespan of people with severe mental illness is shorter compared to the general population. This is why mental illness needs to be treated like any other physical illness. Mental illness is classified as an invisible illness, meaning that while the symptoms are generally not visible to everyone, they are still very much there.  Feelings like worry, anger, jealousy, hate, vindictiveness, irritation, resentment, guilt, depression, anxiety, lack of joy and happiness can have a negative effect upon the body and open the door for sickness and disease like many other illnesses. For those living with mental illness, this has become a regular part of life. Telling someone to “just cheer up” or to “go out and exercise more” or “you have no reason to feel like this, so many people have it worse” does not help. Ever. What is needed from those who love, support or just generally know someone with mental illness are support, love and patience and understanding. That is not to say agree with everything they say and do, but rather to just try to help them feel less alone, uncertain and isolated. As for those who do suffer the physical side effects of being mentally ill, there are, fortunately, natural means to at least ease the pain. Light stretching, a diet rich in B vitamins, magnesium, omega 3’s as well as fresh and in season fruits and vegetables will be the first step towards lowering blood pressure, relieving some muscle pain and getting rid of a lot of digestive upsets. It is also a good idea to look into natural anti-depressant and anti-anxiety supplements such as 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, Rhodiola, Passion Flower or Valerian root (provided they do not interfere with any medication you are taking). There is sadly, no magical cure for mental illness, and it would be trite for people to try to tell you there is. We need to start respecting and treating mental illness like we would any other illness that is more physically visible, because that is what it is, an actual illness.


1 year ago

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