For example, depression becoming so absolute to one mentally that their physical body suffers. Maybe through a lack of physical activity or something.

If it helps, I am attempting to write an essay on Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome and argue that the main character's mental disorders manifests into physical deformities.

  • Just to clarify, are you asking if a literary metaphor used by an author can be scientifically verified? Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 21:00

3 Answers 3


Mental disorders are often accompanied by physical symptoms. However, it is of course difficult to determine whether this is the mental disorder causing the symptoms or it usually "co-appearing" together with other conditions. There are many physical conditions that appear more often in people with certain psychological conditions. Here are a few studies you might want to look at:

For patients treated in typical care settings, PPS were associated with depression severity. However, patients with mild and moderate depression also exhibited PPS. Clinicians should be aware that PPS are present, and may warrant treatment, across depression severities.

(PPS is "painful physical symptoms")

Major depressive disorder severity and the frequency of painful physical symptoms: a pooled analysis of observational studies

Subjects with BD had a significantly higher prevalence of MetS when compared to subjects with MDD and non-psychiatric controls

(MetS: metabolic syndrome, BD: bipolar disorder, MDD: major depressive disorder)

Metabolic syndrome in patients with bipolar disorder: Comparison with major depressive disorder and non-psychiatric controls

Depressed adolescents had a significantly lower reactive hyperaemia index and shorter PTT, suggesting deterioration in vascular integrity and structure. Higher fasting glucose and triglyceride levels were also observed in the depressed group

Clinical and sociodemographic correlates of severe insomnia in psychotropic drug-free, Asian outpatients with major depressive disorder.

The "classical" example is extreme fatigue and insomnia in depressive patients:

Severe insomnia is common in patients with MDD. It is closely related with low educational qualification, subjective depression and anxiety severity, and poor physical health. These findings may implicate the treatment of comorbid MDD and severe insomnia, for example, sleep hygiene education, pharmacological treatment

Clinical and sociodemographic correlates of severe insomnia in psychotropic drug-free, Asian outpatients with major depressive disorder

Fatigue and sleepiness (hypersomnia) are symptoms that are highly prevalent in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD)

Symptoms of fatigue and sleepiness in major depressive disorder.

I think you'll also find much more in the references of these articles, but I'll stop here. Symptoms such as fatigue and insomnia will lead to other physical symptoms, such as heart disease, high blood pressure or stroke

Now, in your question you talk about "physical deformations" and what I just cited might not qualify as a "deformation", especially if you mean things that would be highly visible from the outside. But physical symptoms are often present with mental disorders.


Clearly mental disorders have physical effects. A few examples.

Given that stress can be the outcome of mental disorders, the above examples should be enough to prove there is a link between at least some metal disorders and some physical disorders.

  • This is a very deceptive answer. The question asks if mental disorders can cause physical ones. Your first link states the very opposite of what you state: "It used to be thought that stomach ulcers may be caused by certain lifestyle factors, such as spicy foods, stress and alcohol. There is little hard evidence to confirm that this is the case...". The second states that rheumatoid arthritis causes stress, not that stress causes arthritis. This is a health site that aims for accuracy, not misrepresenting things to support a bias. This site is about evidence, not opinion or points. Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 20:56

Depression can cause loss of appetite, headaches, constipation and insomnia. This puts obvious stress on the body and can result in weight loss, muscle loss (due to low activity)

But wouldn't go as far as saying it causes direct deformation on the body.

  • 1
    Welcome to health SE :-). Since questions about health are a delicate matter, references are strongly encouraged on this website. You can always edit your answer to include some. Thanks!
    – Lucky
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 12:02

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