7 Ways Chronic Anxiety Takes a Toll on You Physically, Not Just Mentally

7 Ways Chronic Anxiety Takes a Toll on You Physically, Not Just Mentally

Anxiety could be manifesting through frequent stomach problems or falling ill because of flu or common cold.

We generally focus on the mental and emotional effects that anxiety disorder has on us but ignore the physical ones. The physical symptoms can show up before the mental ones hit you with full force. Unless you're aware of the symptoms you can be caught unawares in a tidal wave of your mind and body spinning out of control, which can be debilitating.

“When a person experiences anxiety, it’s essentially the fight-or-flight system kicking in and saying, ‘Danger!’” Neda Gould, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Bayview Anxiety Disorders Clinic, told SELF.

The symptoms that your body would show when you are in danger or in the fight-or-flight mode include increased breathing and heart rate as well as the release of adrenaline and cortisol. Together, all the symptoms can be overwhelming for anyone who doesn't have the tools to gain mastery over them.

Here are some physical symptoms of anxiety you need to be aware of:

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1. Hyperventilation

When you feel the anxiety washing over you it can begin with rapid and shallow breathing, which is called hyperventilation. This will be accompanied by dizziness, weakness, feeling faint, tingling all over the body, and lightheadedness.

When someone is hyperventilating, the lungs take in more oxygen and transport it in the body allowing it to prepare for fight or flight. It makes people feel that there isn't enough oxygen and they end up gasping for breath, according to Medical News Today.

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2. Sweating

Sweating is a common by-product of anxiety. Anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system, which influences the sweat glands that are all over your body. There are sweat glands which cover our skin and there are those that cover parts of the body with hair follicles. Both types of glands will get activated because of anxiety.

As much as anxiety can make you sweat, the sweating can also worsen the anxiety. This kind of psychological sweating is most evident on the palms, soles, face, and armpit, according to the study, Psychological Sweating: A Systematic Review Focused on Aetiology and Cutaneous Response.

3. Stomach problems

Those with anxiety will likely face multiple signs of gastrointestinal distress. The GI system is a series of organs joined together from the mouth to the anus. It includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus.

“Anxiety really hits the GI system hard,” Dr. Mona Potter, medical director at McLean Anxiety Mastery Program in Boston, Massachusetts, told SELF. People with anxiety may face general stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, or other kinds of GI distress. 

This connection is believed to be because of the gut-brain axis, as experts call it. This is a communication system between the brain and the part of the nervous system that controls digestion. So not only does stress affect your GI system but a lifestyle eating foods that don't suit you or not exercising enough can lead to digestion problems.

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4. Impaired immunity

Your immune system is what protects you from the external infectious organisms and in the short-term anxiety can make its responses better. However, when you have anxiety for an extended period of time the effect is entirely opposite. 

Cortisol prevents the release of substances that can cause inflammation stopping the immune system from protecting you from infections. Those with chronic anxiety disorder would get the common cold, the flu, and other types of infections frequently.

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5. Urinary response

If you constantly feel the need to pee and have anxiety, it could be that the anxiety is causing this increased need to urinate. The link between anxiety and the urge to urinate is not clear however there are theories that it could have an evolutionary basis. In caveman days, humans found it was easier to escape with an empty bladder, which may prompt this loss of control over urination in a stressful situation.

6. Fatigue

When you have anxiety, you tend to feel tired all the time. Since the mental disorder activates stress hormones it keeps you on high alert all the time, which drains you. Secondly, you sleep worse when you're always on high alert, which further contributes to feeling exhausted. If you have anxiety, you could have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, or might have restless and unsatisfying sleep.

Cortisol and adrenaline make it hard to relax enough to sleep well. This is generally accompanied by racing thoughts, which is another aspect of anxiety.

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7. Muscle pain

Thanks to the stress hormones and the response to them, your muscles tense up. When you are holding parts of your body rigidly for a long time they can start aching, Dr. Potter says. She added that those with anxiety feel tight in their necks, backs, or shoulders. The muscle tension can go up to your head, leading to headaches, she added.

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Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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