Anxiety is a relatively common mental health issue that affects millions of people today. It’s a debilitating problem that, when left ignored or untreated, can lead to adverse effects on an individual’s mental as well as physical well-being.
Ages ago, people thought that there’s a separation between mental and physical health. However, recent studies have favored a holistic point-of-view. This means that a problem with one part of your body can lead to adverse effects on other areas as well. Fortunately, this has led to a holistic approach in coming up with a treatment for anxiety.
Psychological disorders, like anxiety and depression, are sinister because they don’t just contaminate your thoughts. They also have an influence on your physical health and do significant damage to your organs without you knowing it.
Here are the ways that anxiety affects the physical body:
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know that one of the tell-tale signs is hyperventilation; rapid breathing occurs as your body responds to stress.
The first thing that happens is your heart would race, which would result in needing more oxygen to prepare your body for fight-or-flight mode. With this, your body would cater to this demand by trying to get as much air into your system. However, you have to remember that this can lead to an imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide, which can exacerbate the other symptoms of physical anxiety.
That’s why one of the best ways to combat anxiety is to learn how to do proper deep breathing. The process involves breathing in through your nose and having oxygen expand your diaphragm.Hyperventilation is often characterized by quick and shallow breaths. Conversely, you should practice mindfulness when you feel like a panic attack is coming and calm yourself through diaphragmatic breathing. You may even perform some calming Yoga positions to keep yourself centered amidst the storm brewing in your mind.
2. Chest Pain
When your heart races too much, you may experience chest pain and, worse, a stroke. This happens when your body goes into anxious mode all the time.
Experiencing rapid heart rates and palpitations can wear your heart out. It may also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.
3. Sweating and Shaking
Another physical manifestation of anxiety is sweating and shaking. These two stress responses can occur simultaneously or separately. Anxious or stressful thoughts can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the sweat glands all over your body.
Again, this response happens because your body is getting primed to fight with predators or flee toward safety. While the danger may be ‘all in your head,’ it doesn’t eliminate the fact that your body feels that it’s a real threat to your life.
Shaking, on the other hand, may be caused by anxiety-induced hormone surges. Similar to the homeostasis between oxygen and carbon dioxide, anxious thoughts can lead to a disproportion between the different chemicals that interact in your body.
Sex hormones, such as testosterone and progesterone, influence how an individual handles stress. This may be the reason why anxiety usually peaks during periods of hormonal change, like puberty as well as menstruation and menopause for women.
Adrenaline and cortisol are also well-known stress hormones. Your body produces them in an attempt to cope with the threat and the actions that you ought to take. However, individuals with anxiety have excess levels of these chemicals.
4. Hormonal Imbalance
As mentioned above, anxiety may lead your hormones to go out of control. The fight-or-flight stress response produces some chemicals to prepare your body for action.
However, with anxiety, the perceived danger isn’t anchored on reality. With this, your body might not be able to expend the energy and chemicals that it has built up since you didn’t do anything about the situation, which means that recovery takes a bit longer. Plus, the cycle can go on and progresses as you continue to battle the psychological disorder.
5. Digestive Issues
Nausea is a common symptom of anxiety. You may have experienced a feeling of dread that starts in the pit of your stomach. Persistent panicky and worrisome thoughts can lead to problems with your digestion and appetite due to the gut-mind connection.
An imbalance in the amount of good and bad bacteria in your stomach has been known to affect your cognition. In the same way, issues with your mental health, like anxiety, may also influence digestive functions.
6. Persistent Fatigue
Rapid heart rates, sweating, shaking, and nausea can take a toll on your physical health. The problem becomes worse when you also have difficulty sleeping at night due to the thoughts that run through your mind.
All these factors contribute to a feeling of tiredness that’s caused by anxiety.
7. Body Aches
The tense feeling you have when you have a panic attack or even just when you have worried thoughts can make you unconsciously clench your muscles. This tension is your body’s way of preparing to feel injury and pain. It results in body aches that exacerbate the persistent fatigue that you’re feeling.
8. Poor Immune System
When you look at it in the short-term perspective, being worried can help save your life since it signals your body to prepare to fight or flee from an intense situation. You might even get a brief boost in immunity to accommodate your stress response.
However, it’s not physically sustainable if you continue in this mental state. This means that your body constantly feels and prepares for an imminent danger that it no longer knows how to return to normal functioning, which can lead to fatigue and weaken your immune system.
The problem with anxiety is that it doesn’t only affect your mental state but your physical health as well. You may have experienced hyperventilating, sweating, and shaking due to the stress that you’re feeling about a perceived threat to your well-being.
When left untreated, frequently being in a fight-or-flight mode may lead to adverse health consequences.