6 Physical Signs of Mental Illness

Mental illness is complex and can present with a wide array of symptoms, including physical signs and symptoms. This is something people often see with anxiety, for example. It is not uncommon to experience sweating, tension and even chest pain when a person is experiencing an anxiety attack. Widespread aches and pains, including headaches and tension, can also occur with depression or the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder. There are no physical reasons for these symptoms, but they are very real and driven by the anxiety, depression or other mental illness that they are experiencing. It is imperative to know that these physical signs and symptoms are not imagined. They are very real and can cause immense distress.

The connection between the body and mind is not well understood, but experts have concluded that it is incredibly complex. Physical symptoms caused by mental illness or distress is sometimes referred to as somatization. There are times when the physical signs can be incredibly severe to the point that they are disabling. In these instances, it is common for patients and doctors to seek a physical cause. However, the symptoms can also fluctuate in both their presence and their severity. This is what makes it difficult for doctors and patients to differentiate between them stemming from a physical or a mental cause.

1. Tension

This symptom is frequently attributed to stress, so it is not a stretch to see how it can manifest as a physical symptom of mental illness. It is generally the result of strong emotions. You have likely been in a situation where you felt incredibly nervous and clenched your jaw as a result, or you were under pressure for a tight deadline and experienced a headache. The mechanism that causes these physical responses to stress is the same that triggers tension due to mental illness.

Tension headaches, neck pain and shoulder pain are the most common types of physical tension associated with mental illness. In the shoulders, research shows that this symptom can occur as the result of an increased mental workload. With the neck, the same issue of an increased mental workload can be at play. Clenching the jaw or knitting the brow can cause a headache, and these are common when a person is worried or upset about something. Both shoulder and neck tension can also contribute to a tension headache.

Another site of tension among those with mental illness is the hips. The research is limited, but the consensus is that there is a relationship between the hips and the jaw, so when the jaw is tense, the hips can be tense too and experience a reduction in overall range of motion.