how does anxiety affect the body

How Does Anxiety Affect the Body? An in Depth Guide

Worldwide, over 264 million people have been diagnosed with anxiety-related disorders. Unfortunately, women are almost twice as likely to develop anxiety than men. 

Dealing with the effects of anxiety can be very stressful. It can be hard to open up if you are struggling. 

But you are never alone. Understanding the question “how does anxiety affect the body?” is one of the first steps to managing the disorder. This article covers what anxiety is, what symptoms to look for, and the long-term effects it can have. There are also some tips for coping with anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

Feeling anxious is a common emotion. Our brains react to stress so that it can alert us to potential danger. 

We live in a modern world full of overstimulation, so it is normal to feel anxious sometimes. But, when you start to feel it often it could be a sign that something is wrong.

Anxiety could occur for many reasons. You may have relationship difficulties, or you have experienced trauma. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to anxiety, so it won’t look or feel the same for everyone.

Anxiety is actually an umbrella term for several types of anxiety disorders. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common ones. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is when you feel a lot of anxiety and worry in your day-to-day life. There usually doesn’t appear to be an obvious reason for this anxiety. 

People with GAD may feel that they are always anticipating a disaster. They may always be thinking about money, health, or relationship problems. 

Panic Disorder

The main characteristic of panic disorder is sudden and intense fear. This can come on at any time and could result in a panic attack.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when you have repetitive, unwanted, and upsetting thoughts. You may perform repetitive behaviors to relieve anxiety. This could be obsessively checking things or asking the same questions over and over.

Social Anxiety Disorder

This disorder makes you feel stressed in social situations. Even daily life interactions can cause overwhelm for people with this disorder. People often report feeling like they are being judged or made fun of by the people around them. 

Separation Anxiety

With separation anxiety, you may feel worried and upset when a loved one is apart from you. You might think that something terrible will happen to them, or that they will leave you. 

How Does Anxiety Affect the Body?

People who are suffering from an anxiety disorder could have unpleasant physical side effects. These are some of the common physical symptoms to look out for.

Respiratory Issues

Anxious people often have trouble breathing. Their breath may become shallow and fast when in stressful situations. This alters normal breathing patterns, causing them to inhale too much oxygen. 

This can lead to feelings of dizziness, numbness, or a tingling sensation. In some extreme cases, the person might pass out. If a person already suffers from asthma, anxiety can exacerbate the problem.

Low Immune System

When your body is under constant stress, you are susceptible to falling ill. This is often because people with anxiety are not sleeping or eating well. The body cannot heal itself without fuel and rest. This causes a low immune system.

Bowel Problems

Constant worry and anxiety can cause problems with digestion and bowel movements. Those with anxiety disorders may suffer from stomach pains, diarrhea, or excessive bloating. Others may also experience nausea and vomiting. 

Chronic Pain

Muscle tension and chronic pain are also physical symptoms of anxiety. When anxious, the central nervous system sends out panic signals through your body. This causes your muscles to tighten more often than normal, tiring them out. 

Weight Fluctuations

This will vary depending on the person suffering from anxiety. Some people lose their appetites during anxious episodes. Others might seek relief from food. 

Over weeks and months, this can lead to significant changes in body weight. At both ends of the spectrum, there can be complications with this. It may also lead to feelings of low self-esteem, which can worsen anxiety symptoms. 

Long Term Effects of Anxiety

Suffering from anxiety for a long period of time can lead to more mental health issues. Sustained anxiety can lead to the development of clinical depression. It could also affect your memory and sense of self.

People may also turn to substance abuse during hard times. Drugs and alcohol may dull the effects of anxiety for a short period of time. But using them a lot often leads to worse symptoms than before. 

Coping with Anxiety

All this information may seem negative and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Acknowledging that you are having difficulties is the first step in the path to healing.

As with most issues, getting to the root of the cause is the most effective solution. So finding someone to talk to about your emotions is a great place to start. 

Some things that can help you manage your anxiety might be:

  • Seeking a qualified therapist 
  • Journalling your thoughts and feelings
  • Sticking to a strict sleep schedule
  • Regular exercise
  • Practicing mindfulness or meditation
  • Asking your local doctor about prescribing medication

Any and all these things can improve your mood and lessen anxiety symptoms. The great news about anxiety is that it doesn’t have to be forever, and most people make full recoveries.

A Helping Hand

In this busy world, it can be difficult to find a moment to check how we are feeling. Now that you have the answer to “how does anxiety affect the body?”, you can be more in tune with how you are feeling. Remember that you don’t have to struggle through it alone. 

Iliana Gelles is a licensed therapist based in California. She specializes in anxiety and relationship therapy. She brings kindness to her therapy room, ready to support you through life’s highs and lows.

If you need to talk then get in contact now for your free 20-minute consultation. Start your healing journey today. 

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