The Leading Physical Effects Of Anxiety & Depression

Headaches, exhaustion, stomach issues are all symptoms people experience when run down. However, for someone suffering from a mental health disorder, this can be a daily experience and can be challenging to get on top of during a bad episode.

The correlation between mental health and physical symptoms has even been discussed in an article by Harvard Health, explaining that around two-thirds of patients with irritable bowel syndrome on follow-up also have psychological distress symptoms, most often anxiety. About 65% of patients suffer from depression who also experience at least one type of pain symptom.

When it comes to managing your anxiety or another mental health disorder, knowing that physical symptoms may arise can add more stress or pressure to an already difficult time. It can even affect what kind of clothes they will choose in the morning. For example, I always opt for a black top when I know I’m going to be doing something I’m nervous about to attempt to hide any sweat patches from my anxiety.

Research undertaken to learn why the body expresses itself physically is discussed in another article by Harvard Health, published in 2020. He explains that the body mistakes mental distress as believing it is under attack. It also describes several symptoms a sufferer can experience: headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, shakiness, or stomach pain.

All of these symptoms can come and go, and depending on the episode, can vary in degree of noticeability and comfort. It’s important to be aware these symptoms can be related to other conditions with many of these symptoms, with many not realizing they’re experiencing a mental health episode until they’re in one.

But, how can you gain control before your physical symptoms spiral? Here are some of our tips.

Reassure Yourself

Stop, and tell yourself that what you’re experiencing will pass. Reminding yourself that these symptoms will ease as the anxiety or depression does, making sure to slow down, accept and welcome calming. The ADAA explains that taking short breaks can help calm digestion problems and other stress or anxiety symptoms.

Avoid Certain Foods and Drinks

In some cases, avoiding certain foods with high amounts of sugar or drinks containing caffeine will help you manage your physical symptoms. This is due to caffeine being a known aggravator for anxiety, increasing heart palpitations, and hindering sleep. Dr. Winsburn, in a Forbes article, recommends foods high in protein and potassium, as these can calm moods and ease physical symptoms of stress.


Not only is physical activity, even for only fifteen minutes a day, a great way to reduce stress, but it also releases endorphins which release a positive feeling in your body. It can help to distract yourself from your symptoms, with stretching and deep breathing also aiding symptoms. Consider going for a walk and focusing on your surroundings or yoga to release tension in your muscles and back.

Distract Yourself

When you’re experiencing physical symptoms, it can help to distract yourself and focus on something else. If you’re out, try and list things you enjoy, and if you have the opportunity, consider calling a loved one for a chat or listening to songs you love. Judith Wurtman explains in PsychologyToday that the distraction must be easy to initiate while also being convenient to be effective.

More Sleep

Sleep issues are often an accompanying factor in many mental health issues and disorders, so it’s essential to get the right amount of sleep for you. The NHS recommends most adults need 6 to 9 hours, and if you’re currently struggling to sleep, setting a consistent routine can help you fall asleep and stay asleep easier. Not only will getting more sleep help you to cope with anxiety or stress, but it helps ease other physical symptoms such as cramps, backache from tensing to migraines, and headaches.

If you experience any of the above physical symptoms in line with your anxiety or mental health, rest assured you’re not alone, and these can be normal. However, if you’re concerned, always contact a professional.