Not only does anxiety confound your mind, but it also has physical symptoms. Over time, you will see the damage, caused by years of stress and worry.
During my early twenties, I never believed that those sleepless nights and hours crying would ever amount to physical scars. I didn’t discover the physical symptoms of anxiety until I turned the corner at 40 years of age. Now I write to you so that maybe you are a little younger and maybe you will be a little wiser. I want you to know that the anxiety of today will affect you tomorrow. Beware.
The anguish of a young woman or man lies within the brain, formulated by a silent killer called anxiety.
Anxiety derives from the amygdala, an area of the brain which governs the “fight or flight” response. In these regions of the brain, an important decision must be made, where either choice holds great consequences, hence the term “anxious”.
If your doctor has diagnosed you with an anxiety disorder, then know that these huge decisions are some of the hardest aspects of life.
But what makes anxiety so monstrous is that it can strike in the absence of any “important decision making”. Those who suffer from anxiety disorders are prone to feel the symptoms (both mental and physical) at any given time, regardless of how the day is going.
This is only the part that affects the mind, have you, and this feeling of hopelessness, helplessness, fear and worry derives from the confines of the brain. The rest of the body is an innocent bystander.
Initial physical symptoms of anxiety
Let that soak in for a moment. Realize how your central processor can mean big trouble for everything below the neck. For various reasons, and we’ve covered this in other posts, chemical changes occur within the amygdala, followed by structural changes as time goes on. Then, the disease just spreads downward.
Neurotransmitters send signals to the nervous system. The entire body goes on alert in preparation for some crisis, whether it’s really a crisis or not. The heart rate increases, breathing changes, and blood rushes to the brain away from other organs. The brain is hard at work on finding a way out of the coming storm. And because of these preparations, the body begins to suffer. Headaches, diarrhea, and nausea occur as an effect of sudden chemical changes and mixed signals. In short, it’s a mess.
Now, if you think that sounds bad, consider this…
Not only do the symptoms of anxiety affect the body temporarily, but they also do long-term damage to physical health as well. This is the whole reason I wanted to warn you. As humans, we can deal with sudden temporary changes and bounce back quite well.
It’s the long-term damage that shortens our lifespan and decreases our quality of life. So, you need to be forewarned in hopes you can derail anxieties plans.
Here are 6 ways that anxiety affects the body:
The Women’s Health Initiative says that women who have panic attacks are much more likely to have a stroke.
In The Nurses Health Study, women with phobic anxiety are 59% more likely to have a heart attack and with a 31% chance of dying from this heart attack. Harvard Medical School and the Cardiovascular Research Institute reported that those with an anxiety disorder were twice as likely to have a heart attack than those who had no history of anxiety.
There aren’t as many conclusive studies associated with the connection between gastrointestinal disorders and anxiety, but I can attest to having both, first anxiety, and not IBS, diagnosis just last year. I have another acquaintance who suffers from various mental disorders who has the same gut problem.
A study conducted in New Zealand in 2007 showed a close relationship between high anxiety levels and IBS, after a random bowel infection provided the evidence.
Anxiety may not cause respiratory issues, but it decreases the quality of life for those who suffer from issues such as COPD. Patients who suffer from COPD, in conjunction with anxiety, have severe stress and more hospitalization.
Short-term memory loss
Due to all of the information being loaded into the brain and the influx of blood as well, memory is damaged. Short term memory loss is caused by a hormone called cortisol, which is released when you are stressed.
Due to the constant contraction of your muscles during the “fight of flight” response, your muscles will experience tension, which can last for a long time. This can also become a long-term issue even when anxiety is not present.
Suppression of the immune system
Symptoms of anxiety can cause much more serious physical issues like a downgraded immune system. Colds, for instance, can spring up when anxiety is at its worst.
It’s not because you get sick from the thought of stress, that just isn’t plausible. What happens is that cortisol, when released during the panic, suppresses the immune system by shifting blood cells to other areas in preparation for combat. Germs are always around and so we tend to catch a cold easier and have a much harder time fighting it off as well.
So enough of the negative, now what?
Now that I have thoroughly scared the crap out of you, here are some ways to combat anxiety. Notice, I didn’t say cure, only giving you the tools to fight back.
Remember, exercise is not a cure. It is, however, a way to boost the immune system and regulate the chemical processes within the body. The best way to exercise is doing a wide variety of activities so as not to get bored.
Despite what you’re going through, try to remember to eat the right amounts and at the right intervals. A healthy diet not only helps the mind but directly strengthens the body and skin alike.
If at all possible, create a uniformed sleeping habit. Try to sleep and wake up at the same times, every day.
If you’re spiritual, then good. Take time in your day to find silence and get in touch with your own higher power.
Just don’t give up!
For now, I have to run. Maybe this has helped someone understand the physical symptoms of anxiety and provide a little hope for tomorrow. Anxiety can be a monster, this is true, but with understanding, this beast can also be tamed. I am sick myself, but there is no way I’m going to stop trying.
If I can do, so can you!
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