Stress, anxiety, depression — people may tell you it’s “all in your head,” but in reality, that’s literally never the case. One of the reasons mental health issues can be so serious is that they can also impact your physical health in both small and not-so-small ways.
For that reason it’s particularly important to make sure that your mental healthcare is on par with your physical healthcare: Connect with loved ones, find a good therapist, and make time to do nice things for yourself, just because.
Here are five ways that mental health issues can manifest in the body — and what to do about it.
Get Hair, Health & Science News
Your skin might change.
Whether you’ve always been prone to breakouts or just skated by with a zit or two, stress has been linked to the worsening of existing acne. “Having high levels of stress can trigger inflammation in the body,” Dr. Mara Davidson, ND, says. “This combination can manifest itself in many ways, one such may be reflected in the skin, like a dermatitis, for example.” Studies have shown that curcumin, the main component in the yellow spice turmeric and a key ingredient of Nutrafol, supports healthy inflammatory processes.
Additionally, “stress increases the production of cortisol, [which] causes the hormones to produce more oil in the skin,” Dr. Howard Sobel, a New York-based dermatologist, told Teen Vogue. This influx of oil can clog pores and cause eruptions of acne.
Your hair may need more care.
While studies have suggested that poor hair health alone can cause psychological distress, the reverse is also true. “High levels of cortisol can affect the normal hair growth cycle,” Dr. Davidson says. “It may impede proper growth and can even stimulate accelerated loss.”
The ingredients in Nutrafol’s Stress Adaptogen target the inflammatory molecules caused by stress and makes sure your hair stays as happy and healthy as the rest of you.
You may feel it in how much energy you have.
The human body’s stress response has a historically useful function when it comes to fueling the fight-or-flight reaction. But when produced too much or too often — even when there is no actual threat to fight or flee — suboptimal cortisol may be released from the adrenal glands, which can actually slow you down.
“Cortisol contributes to your ‘get-up-and-go’ in the morning, with levels being highest generally around 8 a.m.,” Dr. Davidson says. “Not having sufficient cortisol to start your day with may be a factor in decreased energy in the morning.”
Those who suffer from depression may also feel some of the condition’s key attributes — daily fatigue or loss of energy, and an inability to concentrate or think clearly. Resveratrol, an active ingredient in red wine, has been associated with improved memory and cognitive function.
You may gain or lose weight.
Some people who are frequently anxious may note a significant change in their appetite — most notably, a desire to reach for the nearest snack food. There’s a biological reason for this: “Being chronically stressed and having elevated cortisol levels can stimulate cravings for sugary foods which, giving into, can cause weight gain,” Dr. Davidson says. “However, having high cortisol levels itself can be correlated to weight gain as well.”
On the other side, many anxious individuals find that they lose their appetite, leading to weight loss. Studies have indicated that adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola can reduce the body’s physiological response to stress, which can in turn provide some relief from anxiety.
Your immune system might take a hit.
“Having constant and chronic stress can negatively impact the immune system,” Dr. Davidson says. “It can wear it down, thus opening the door to getting sick much more easily.” This is why you may notice a correlation between the times you come down with the sniffles and the times you’re under more pressure at work or home.
Supplementing a healthy diet with zinc plus vitamins C, B6, and E can boost an immune system that’s been under stress.