UAE: Mental health neglect can have direct impact on body, doctors warn

Report shows that it can contribute to symptoms such as high blood pressure and even result in brain changes



File photo
File photo

By Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Thu 5 May 2022, 6:35 PM

Last updated: Thu 5 May 2022, 6:37 PM

Mental health issues have a direct impact on your body and can even lead to heart attacks and death, doctors have warned.

According to research by workplace mental wellbeing platform Plumm, which recently launched in the UAE, stress, anxiety and depression can have deadly implications on the body.

Neglecting three key mental health factors such as chronic stress, depression, and burnout, has a immediate effect on the body and can contribute to symptoms such as high blood pressure, clogging of the arteries, and can even result in brain changes that lead to mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and addiction, the report highlights

The report was released as the UAE observes Mental Health Awareness month in May.

“Several studies suggest that individuals experiencing depression are at high risk of developing hypertension, as well as being predisposed to stroke and ischemic heart disease,” said Dr Nada Elbashir, specialist psychiatrist at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

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Supplied photo

“In fact, depression may put patients at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and death. Furthermore, depressed patients tend to have poor control of their blood pressure as they have lost interest in adhering to their therapeutic regimen," she added.

The Covid pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health, according to Caileen Lubbe, a research psychologist at Plumm.

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Supplied photo

“The Covid-19 lockdown has given us different challenges to deal with,” she said.

“For some, it was the uncertainty and stress of having to close down their businesses or losing their jobs and not knowing where their next salary was going to come from. For others it was the anxiety of having to constantly worry about their own health and the health of their loved ones. Everyone became concerned about sanitising and distancing. This caused a lot of people to lose out on the social support that is so necessary to us as social beings.”

A World Health Organisation scientific brief released in March revealed that in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25 per cent.

“Some people really struggled with their mental health as many of them lost out on the support network that helped them get through life,” she said.

“We saw cases of stress and anxiety rocket. More people were diagnosed with depression as they were taken completely out of their norm. Different people dealt with the circumstances differently.”

The most negative effect of mental illness is the coping mechanism. “People with mental illness can resort to drugs and substances as self-medication and can end up in addiction or dependence to those substances or drugs,” said Dr Shaju George, psychiatrist at Medeor Hospital in Dubai.

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Supplied photo

Lubbe agrees. “A common coping mechanism is addiction. This could be to substance or even food. An often-seen sign is that people with mental health issues are hyper-focused on one aspect of their life. Different people deal with the situation differently.”

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Lubbe said it is important that those around people with mental health issues should watch out for red flags. “Everybody’s normal looks different,” she said.

“Just because someone is quiet or quirky or not very social, it doesn’t indicate anything. However, any time someone deviates from their normal behaviour, it is always a red flag. If a usually gregarious person suddenly goes quiet or a shy person becomes extremely outspoken, it is usually an indication of something wrong. When they start to behave differently in a way that impacts their daily life, it is time for those around them to consider getting them professional help.”

Common coping mechanism

  • Excessive social media use
  • Binge eating
  • Reduced eating
  • Turning into a workaholic
  • Display of obsessive and compulsive behaviour, like frequent hand washing
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Excessive spending of money
  • Harmful behaviour

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