Being in an abusive relationship can affect your physical health, too
I have bad news, folks. Being in a toxic relationship can affect your physical health, too. We all know c-PTSD is the main mental health effect of emotional or/and physical abuse. However, people all around the world can develop chronic health conditions as a result of living in a survival mode.
Here are some physical issues one can develop from the stress of a toxic relationship.
A 2015 study by Xiao-Jun Yang & team found that people with anxiety and depression are more predisposed to developing GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
The researchers also proved that GERD lowers the quality of life if anxiety is not reduced.
GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (oesophagus). The acid reflux can irritate the lining of the oesophagus which can later lead to inflammation.
We all know how stressful it is to be in toxic relationships. That stress can easily become unhealthy if it affects you daily. Thus, the longer you are in the relationship with the abusive person, the higher stress levels you’ll have and the more likely it is for your gut to suffer.
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition of the large intestines that manifests through symptoms like diarrhoea, bloating, pain, cramps and constipation.
Dr Kelvin Thea, a gastroenterologist at the Mount Elizabeth hospital suggests that the gut and brain are very much connected. Thus, when the brain releases the hormone of stress, the gut receives this message as a threat. As a result, you enter into a fight or flight mode and the mobility in the intestines increases.
You can test this by taking on a huge assignment at work or agreeing to do a presentation. You’ll soon feel those “butterflies” in your stomach going wild. Some people might also experience frequent urination or diarrhea from the “nerves”.
This is a normal stress reaction. However, if you are subjected to long periods of stress, your symptoms might become chronic, and that’s when you risk developing IBS.
Stress can also disrupt the gut microbiome which keeps us disease-free.
A 2019 study published in the National Library of Medicine suggests that when the body is under a lot of stress, the gut reacts negatively by releasing certain bacteria in the stomach that alter your mood and eating behavior.
That is a powerful discovery because it might explain why so many of us engage in emotional eating. I am guilty of using food to lower my anxiety levels in the past.
The researchers believe that the gut microbiome is dependent on your moods and how you cope with certain stress factors.
I am pretty sure that being in a toxic relationship leads to a loss of self-care, while emotional regulation goes out the window.
In other words, when you’re in the midst of an abusive relationship, you might avoid using healthy coping mechanisms for stress. Instead, you might use alcohol, drugs or food to cope.
This in turn will lower your gut’s health and, as you see, it creates a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of.
3. High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure is very common nowadays. It is enough to have a stressful 9–5 and live a sedentary life to develop this condition.
Dr Leslie Tay agrees that stress can cause inflammation in the arteries which lead to heart disease and chronic high blood pressure.
The important thing is to do the best you can to cope with the current stressful situation you have or, if possible to remove yourself from it. Getting plenty of sleep and eating well are simple ways to lower the stress than can affect your heart’s health.
If breaking up with the toxic person is not possible, try to reduce the amount of time you spend with them. Find ways to lower your stress by walking in nature, meditating and connecting with people who are emotionally healthy and want the best for you.
Stress affects your blood sugar levels as well. When the stress hormone is released into your bloodstream, it increases your blood sugar levels as well.
A 2020 study from Ohio State University College of Medicine discovered a link between cortisol (the stress hormone) and type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that healthy people have a fluctuating level of cortisol in their bodies throughout the day. However, those with type 2 diabetes had a flatter cortisol level. Meaning that people who are more likely to be in a constant fight or flight mode are more likely to have abnormal sugar blood levels.
The researchers believe that depression is also a big predictor of diabetes which can be managed by practising mindfulness and adopting healthy lifestyle habits.
I believe removing the cause of your stress and depression is key in preventing type 2 diabetes and even treating it. Sure, you can do mindfulness three times a day but if you’re constantly beaten down by your spouse or if someone at work is bullying you, then this might not work.
The solution here is to cut ties with the toxic person, event or situation that causes you to be in a survival mode.
I have included alcoholism because it was declared a disease in 1956 by The American Medical Association.
The basis for this decision was that alcohol affects certain parts of your brain which create patterns of negative and self-destructive behaviors.
When you’re an alcoholic, your brain creates an addiction to the endorphins that are released when you’re consuming alcoholic beverages.
You’re also more likely to have physical cravings for alcohol and difficulty thinking of something else than the “booze”.
The stress of a toxic relationship can make one choose alcohol or drugs to cope. I understand why. Being inebriated can help you detach from your problems even for just a short while.
However, using alcohol to soothe the internal issues that keep you stuck in unhealthy relationship patterns can create more health problems down the road.
All and all, being in a relationship with a toxic person is dangerous not only for your emotional health but for your physical health as well.
This, however, doesn’t mean you’ll develop any of these conditions any time soon. The important thing to take from this article is to be aware of the severity of the side effects that abuse can have on you.
Don’t dismiss the pain you’re in just because you were taught to do so at an early age. Acknowledge the fact that your relationship hurts you at a deeper level than you previously thought.
That you’re not strong enough to endure it for one more month, one more year, one more decade. No one is that strong!
Your health is important and you deserve to live a life free of physical and mental distress.