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time posted
Feb 03, 2021

Influence of Anxiety on Your Physical Health


You might think of anxiety as something that people only experience in their worrying mind, but there are physical effects of anxiety that have great influence. Anxiety is your body’s natural response to fear, worry and threat, when the threat diminishes, anxiety goes away.

The challenge arises because your body is capable of handling short bursts of stressful situations. When you encounter a threat, your body prepares itself for the required action, if you are unable to manage anxiety and eliminate the threat, anxiety stays on repeat within your body. As a result, you experience the effects of anxiety on the body and mind, often overwhelming a person into a challenging cycle of worry.

As you are here, you may be interested in finding out what anxiety does to the body. This article is about the impact and physical effects of anxiety. Let’s dive right in.

What can cause anxiety?

  • Genetics often says it all. If you have a family history of anxiety, you are more likely to develop anxiety at any age.
  • Highly stressful events can contribute to anxiety.
  • If you are a perfectionist, lack self-esteem and confidence then anxiety can impact you.
  • Facing stressful life events continuously such as experiencing any trauma, death of a beloved one, loss of a job, relationship problems, and verbal or sexual abuse can unknowingly lead you to an anxiety disorder.
  • Long-term diseases like asthma, diabetes, and hypertension, etc. can also cause you anxiety or excessive worry about your health treatment, or your future.
  • Hormonal changes in your body lead to anxiety-like symptoms. One example is an overactive thyroid. Some tumors also increase the production of the “fight and flight” response, which is related to anxiety.
  • Some personality traits and cognitive styles make you prone to anxiety disorders.

There are many causes of anxiety. What makes you anxious may not be a source of anxiety for someone else. This difference is due to several factors including both mental and physical. Similarly, different people experience different anxiety effect on body. Below are given some of the physical effects of anxiety.

Physical Effects of Anxiety:

Fight or flight Response:

To understand the anxiety physical effects, it is better to understand the basic “fight or flight” response first. When you perceive a threat, your body prepares itself to either fight the situation or flee from it. For your survival, just like an emergency, your body makes some physiological changes. These changes include releasing hormones cortisol and adrenaline, slowing digestion, speeding heart rate, etc, to give your body a burst of energy.

When that threat eliminates, your body relaxes and comes back to its normal functioning. However, when anxiety persists for long periods of time, your body stays in that fight or flight mode. As a result, you experience anxiety side effects.

Short-term Effects:

When you get anxious, your hands and legs get sweaty. Your heart rate increases with shortness of breath, and sickness in your stomach. Moreover, you may face insomnia. These are the anxiety physical symptoms that can be short-term.

Long-term Effects:

Similar to the short-term, there are the long-term effects of anxiety on your body. If stays for long, anxiety causes detrimental effects on your cardiovascular system increasing the risk of coronary events. Or it can severely affect your digestive systems. Moreover, anxiety damages your immune system, and respiratory system as well. Among the long-term effects of anxiety, some are the development of anxiety disorders such as:

Generalized anxiety disorder:

Generalized anxiety disorder(GAD) is a severe and persistent form of anxiety. You start to worry about many things. You may be worried about health, money, family, and work. People with this disorder don’t know how to stop worrying even about unnecessary things. GAD induces fear of making wrong decisions. Moreover, it causes restlessness, fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, diarrhea, and trouble sleeping.

Post-Traumatic stress disorder:

You may have experienced a traumatic incident in your life. Unfortunately, this occupies your subconscious. Thus, leading you to a stressful condition that would interfere with your daily routine.

In PTSD, you have intrusive memories, flashbacks, and nightmares of that event. And your body shows severe physical reactions to anything that reminds you of that event. PTSD causes a variety of physical health problems such as

  • Reproductive system-related problems
  • Heart-related problems and disease
  • Arthritis
  • Pain
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive problems and disease
  • Respiratory system-related problems and disease

Panic Disorder:

You may have panic attacks once or twice in your lifetime and then become normal as the stressful situation ends. The panic attack becomes a panic disorder if you have an unexpected panic attack and you spend a long time in fear of another attack

You may experience this type of anxiety attack anytime and anywhere. Hence, you should know what this anxiety does to your body. Some of the physical symptoms of panic disorder include

  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Feelings of choking
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal cramps, etc.

You can now understand that the physical effects of anxiety in almost all anxiety disorders are more or less similar. The reason is that all types of anxiety involve the mechanism of your body associated with the fight and flight mechanism. If left untreated, these symptoms can turn into severe issues affecting your normal functioning badly.

How Anxiety and The Central Nervous System Are Connected?

The human nervous system is divided into two parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord, and PNS consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

Of these divisions, the peripheral nervous system and anxiety are connected. When your body is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system generates a fight or flight response by stimulating adrenal glands. Adrenal glands, in turn, release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase your heartbeat, respiration rate, and glucose levels, etc, to increase the supply of energy.

Once the crisis is over, the parasympathetic system of your body brings it back to the normal, relaxed state. Not forgetting the CNS, it has an essential role in triggering the fight and flight response. And it does so by regulating the autonomic nervous system and interpreting events as potentially threatening.

Anxiety is a natural response of your body that helps you in survival by triggering a fight and flight response. Your body undergoes different physiological changes as a result of stress. But when you eliminate the stress, the body comes back to its normal functioning. This process involves different systems of your body, including the nervous system and endocrine system. If left unchecked, long-term activation of fight or flight response can cause detrimental effects on your physical health. It can result in anxiety disorders as well. Therefore, if you find any of the physical symptoms mentioned-above, it would be helpful to seek anxiety counselling in Calgary. The earlier you seek help, the better. At One Life, our Calgary psychologists are highly trained in treating anxiety and can help you with overcoming social anxiety and anxiety symptoms.

I am the founder of One Life Counselling and Coaching LTD and I am honored to lead a team of professional psychologists, psychotherapist’s and life coaches who dedicate their professional lives to helping people to elevate their mindsets, evolve their beliefs and learn to thrive in the present moment.
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