The GuardianThe Guardian

The big idea: Should we drop the distinction between mental and physical health?

By Edward Bullmore

12 Sep 2022 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

Anyone who has struggled with their mental health will know how physically symptoms manifest. The dichotomy is also holding back research.

A few months ago, I was infected by coronavirus and my first symptoms were bodily. But as the sore throat and cough receded, I was left feeling gloomy, lethargic and brain-foggy for about a week. An infection of my body had morphed into a short-lived experience of depressive and cognitive symptoms – there was no clear-cut distinction between my physical and mental health.

My story won’t be news to the millions of people worldwide who have experienced more severe or prolonged mental health outcomes of coronavirus infection. It adds nothing to the already weighty evidence for increased post-Covid rates of depression, anxiety or cognitive impairment. It isn’t theoretically surprising, in light of the growing knowledge that inflammation of the body, triggered by autoimmune or infectious disease, can have effects on the brain that look and feel like symptoms of mental illness.

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