Monday, March 20, 2023

What Can Stress And Anxiety Do To Your Body

Stress And Your Nervous System

How stress affects your body – Sharon Horesh Bergquist

When it comes to stress, everything begins in your brain. When you are confronted with danger, like nearly being hit by a car, your brain sends a distress signal to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This is where your brain calls the shots for your automatic functions, sending orders to the rest of your body. When you’re stressed, adrenaline signals your body to rev up its heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing. Your senses become sharper, and your brain becomes more alert.

This all happens in an instant. But stress causes long-term effects too. A hormone called cortisol is released, which keeps your body on high alert until the threat passes. For some situations and some people, though, stress levels remain high even after a perceived threat is gone. This leads to chronic stress.

When To See A Doctor

While natural treatments can help with anxiety symptoms, some signs may indicate that you need to call your doctor:

  • Your anxiety is chronic , and it interferes with your ability to function daily
  • Your symptoms have persisted for six months or more
  • Youâre experiencing physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, difficulty sleeping, stomach issues, or chronic fatigue
  • Youâre avoiding people or places
  • Youâre having thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or refer you to a specialist. In some cases, the natural remedies described above may be used along with more conventional treatments to help you manage your symptoms.

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Changes In Digestive Function

Cortisol blocks processes that the body considers nonessential in a fight or flight situation. One of these blocked processes is digestion. Also, adrenaline reduces blood flow and relaxes the stomach muscles.

As a result, a person with anxiety may experience nausea, diarrhea, and a feeling that the stomach is churning. They may also lose their appetite.

Anxiety describes a group of disorders that cause worry, nervousness, and fear. These feelings of anxiety interfere with everyday life and are out of proportion to the triggering object or event.

In some cases, people cannot identify a trigger and feel anxious for what seems like no reason.

While people may experience mild anxiety in some situations, such as before an important presentation or meeting, persistent anxiety can interfere with a persons well-being.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders represent the most common mental illness in the United States and affect 40 million adults every year.

While these disorders respond well to treatment, only 36.9% of people with an anxiety disorder receive treatment.

A doctor will diagnose one of several anxiety disorders in a person.

Types of anxiety disorders include:

Diagnosis will depend on the type of anxiety disorder a person appears to have. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition provides criteria that can help a healthcare professional identify the issues and decide on appropriate treatment.

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Stress affects your digestive tract. The gastrointestinal tract is filled with nerve endings and immune cells, all of which are affected by stress hormones, says Dr. Dossett. As a result, stress can cause acid reflux as well as exacerbate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Not to mention create butterflies in your stomach.

Stress messes with your immune system. A number of studies shows that stress lowers immunity, which may be why youre likely to come down with a cold after a crunch time at school or work right on the first day of your vacation. Patients with autoimmune disorders often say they get flare-ups during or after stressful events, or tell me that their condition began after a particularly stressful event, says Dossett.

Stress can muddle your brain. Brain scans of people with post-traumatic stress disorder show more activity in the amygdala, a brain region associated with fear and emotion, says Haythe. But even everyday kinds of stress can affect how the brain processes information.

We see actual structural, functional, and connectivity-related brain changes in people who are under chronic stress, adds Gupta. All of these can affect cognition and attention, which is why you may find it hard to focus or learn new things when you are stressed.

Potentially More Illnesses Like Colds And Sore Throats

How Stress Affects The Body

Although you might not feel this symptom immediately, anxiety can weaken the immune system over time.

A body under constant stress may struggle to return to a healthy, relaxed, and normal functioning state. During the flight-or-fight response, your system is fueled with hormones to keep you moving faster, stronger, and for longer, but this can be an exhausting process if it occurs too regularly. Once your immune system is weakened, you may become more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Read Also: How To Reduce Stress Levels Immediately

Too Much Alcohol And Drugs

Too much consumption of alcohol and drugs or withdrawal from them can also lead to anxiety and stress.

Anxiety attacks happen due to medical causes too. Patients with an underlying cause of medical conditions can experience anxiety. Your doctor can diagnose if your anxiety has a medical cause by doing the necessary tests. Some of the medical problems connected with anxiety are:

  • Drug Abuse or Drug Withdrawal

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • Respiratory Disorders

  • The best way to deal with psychogenic fevers and anxiety-related problems is by seeking medical expertise or engaging in relaxation techniques like meditation, walking, exercise, yoga, etc. There are many ways to treat anxiety without medication, and some of the most common ones are:

    What Is Stress And How Does It Affect Our Brains And Bodies

    Stress is our reaction to a threatening event or stimulus. Such events and stimuli are called stressors. People perceive and react to stressors differently. Something one person would rate as highly stressful might be rated as considerably less stressful by someone else. These responses are affected by such factors as genetics and life experiences.

    Stress can be classified as positive, tolerable or toxic. Toxic stress occurs when we are faced with a continuous stressor or triggered by multiple sources and can have a cumulative toll on our physical and mental health. It is an experience that overwhelms us and leaves us feeling powerless and hopeless.

    Recommended Reading: How You Deal With Stress At Work

    What Are The Signs Of Stress

    When your body senses danger, it releases stress hormones that cause short-term physical changes. These changes help you to stay focused and alert until things are under control. However, if stress is constant and these changes persist, they can lead to serious problems in the long term.

    When Should I Talk To A Doctor About Stress

    How Stress Affects Your Body and Mind

    You should seek medical attention if you feel overwhelmed, if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope, or if you have thoughts about hurting yourself. Your primary care provider can help by offering advice, prescribing medicine or referring you to a therapist.

    A note from Cleveland Clinic

    Its natural and normal to be stressed sometimes. But long-term stress can cause physical symptoms, emotional symptoms and unhealthy behaviors. Try relieving and managing stress using a few simple strategies. But if you feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor.

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    What Influences Our Capacity For Coping With Stress

    Several factors influence our capacity for coping with stress:

    • The presence of a social network
    • Our skill and confidence in assessing a complex situation and then developing and evaluating solutions
    • Personal variables such as physical health, experience, confidence, anxiety threshold and problem-solving abilities .

    Stressful events are a universal part of the human experience. You may or may not be able to change your current situation, but you can take steps to manage the impact these events have on you.

    Why Do Grounding Techniques Help To Calm You Down

    Anxiety pulls us out of the present moment by creating countless possible scenarios, what ifs, and possible problems in the past or future. This can trigger the amygdala in our brain to sound an internal alarm. Then, it triggers a cascade of changes in our bodies including faster heart rate, faster breathing, and muscle tension. In turn, these responses in our bodies tend to heighten our anxiety even more.Grounding techniques can ease anxiety by drawing your attention away from swirling thoughts or emotions and into your bodies or current environment. Whats more, grounding practices can usually be done in any situation without added financial cost.

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    Can Stress Make You Sick

    Yes, definitely. The long-term effects of anxiety on the body are real theyre not just in your head. If your body habitually triggers a hormonal reaction to stress, it can cause harm to both your body and brain.

    One of the most readily discernible impacts of stress on the body is muscle tension. If your muscles are chronically tense, you might experience tension headaches, migraines, and joint pain. These conditions, in turn, can trigger other stress-related issues with chronic pain.

    Another stress reaction youve probably experienced has to do with your cardiovascular system. When youre anxious, you may notice an increase in your heart rate, a heartbeat that pounds loudly in your chest, and even heart palpitations, where your heart seems to skip a beat.

    Over time, long-term stress can increase your risk for cardiovascular disorders and events, like high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.

    For some, anxiety has a significant impact on breathing. You may experience anxiety physically as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or even breathing too much, as with hyperventilation. This can be especially dangerous if you have a pre-existing respiratory disorder.

    Try these relaxing exercises to ease physical tension.

    Stress And Gastrointestinal Complications

    Signs Youre Suffering from Physical Symptoms of Stress  Mi Asian

    The effects of stress on nutrition and the gastrointestinal system can be summarized with two aspects of GI function.

    First, stress can affect appetite . This effect is related to involvement of either the ventral tegmental area , or the amygdala via N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors . However, it should also be noted that nutrition patterns have effects on the response to stress , and this suggests a bilateral interaction between nutrition and stress.

    Stress can also alter the functional physiology of the intestine . Many inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and other ulcerative-based diseases of the GI tract, are associated with stress . It has been suggested that even childhood stress can lead to these diseases in adulthood . Irritable bowel syndrome, which is a disease with an inflammatory origin, is highly related to stress . Studies on various animals suggest the existence of inflammatory GI diseases following induction of severe stress . Additionally, pharmacological interventions, in an attempt to decrease the response of CRH to stress, have been shown to result in an increase in GI diseases in rats .

    Stress has various effects on the function of GI system

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    Theres No Doubt About The Fact That Anxiety And Stress Significantly Impact Physical Health And Wellbeing Including Skin Health

    Your body sees all forms of stress as a threat to survival and so prioritizes them over all other functions.

    This is why chronic stress has been linked to:

    • Leaky gut and digestive disorders
    • Increased inflammation and inflammatory diseases
    • Inflammatory skin conditions like acne and eczema

    and SO much more.

    Also Check: How To Make Your Dog Not Stressed

    Do I Have Anxiety About Public Transportation

    Having a social anxiety disorder could cause feelings of stress during public situations or in crowded places. If youre someone who lives with an anxiety-related phobia, such as agoraphobia, you may feel resistant to leaving your home or be overwhelmed in open and enclosed spaces, crowds, and the many different forms of public transportation.

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    The Effects Of Anxiety On Your Stomach

    One of the most obvious symptoms of anxiety is how it affects your stomach. Anxiety can make your stomach hurt, make it feel like its churning, or make you feel incredibly nauseous. In fact, anxiety is one of the most common nausea causes. You may even find that you feel like vomiting or actually vomit. You may not feel like eating, either. Of course, this means now youre dealing with anxiety on an empty stomach. You may find your blood sugar gets low, which can make you feel even worse.

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    Finding Your Path To A Less Stressed Life

    Can Stress And Anxiety Cause Physical Pain? | Neuroscience Of The Mind Body Connection

    Sadly, theres no magic stress solution that works for everyone. You might have to explore several different stress management tools and techniques before you find what works best for you. Dr. Howitt suggests taking it one small, manageable step at a time. Set achievable goals, she explains. Small changes can make a meaningful difference in how you experience stress both mentally and physically.

    Practicing self-care is always a good idea, but some people need more support. If something still doesnt feel right or you have questions about how to manage stress in positive ways talk to your doctor.

    1 Kathrin Wunsch et al., Habitual and Acute Exercise Effects on Salivary Biomarkers in Response to Psychosocial Stress, Psychoneuroendocrinology, August 2019.

    2 MaryCarol R. Hunter et al., Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers, Frontiers in Psychology, April 4, 2019.

    3 Madhav Goyal et al., Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, JAMA Internal Medicine, March 2014.

    4 Brian Chin et al., Psychological Mechanisms Driving Stress Resilience in Mindfulness Training: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Health Psychology, August 2019.

    5 Getting Creative Really Does Boost Your Mood, Survey Suggests, BBC News, May 8, 2019.

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    Is It Stress Or Anxiety

    Life can be stressfulyou may feel stressed about performance at school, traumatic events , or a life change. Everyone feels stress from time to time.

    What is stress? Stress is the physical or mental response to an external cause, such as having a lot of homework or having an illness. A stressor may be a one-time or short-term occurrence, or it can happen repeatedly over a long time.

    What is anxiety? Anxiety is your body’s reaction to stress and can occur even if there is no current threat.

    If that anxiety doesnt go away and begins to interfere with your life, it could affect your health. You could experience problems with sleeping, or with your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. You also may be at higher risk for developing a mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression. Read more about anxiety disorders.

    So, how do you know when to seek help?

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    All of these outcomes and impacts of short-term stress have been known for decades. But, perhaps the more critical concern is the impact of chronic stress on our ability to think clearly and make good decisions. Stress hormones have a negative impact on the part of our brain that we need for:

    • Evaluating alternatives and making good business decisions
    • Having productive and thoughtful conversations with our family members, community members and others whose help we might need as we move forward during challenging times

    These physical health, brain function, and decision making impairments often create a vicious cycle. When we find it difficult to make well-thought-through decisions and to move forward, sometimes this can lead to choices that might have less than desirable outcomes. A poorly contemplated decision can cause even more stress which further fuels this response. This cycle can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and other concerns, which then in turn may also be connected to depression and the risk of suicide. Fortunately, all these changes that occur under high stress can be managed and reversed, though it takes multiple tactics and strategies to tackle the issue holistically.

    Recommended Reading: Can Stress Give You Migraines

    Signs And Symptoms Of Stress Overload

    The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You dont notice how much its affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. Thats why its important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.

    Cognitive symptoms:

    • Other mental or emotional health problems

    Physical symptoms:

    What Anxiety Can Do To Your Body

    Health Effects of Chronic Stress May Differ for Men and Women

    Anxiety may affect people differently. It has a varied effect on the mind and the body because of the release of certain hormones and other chemicals in the body.

    It increases a persons chances of suffering from other medical conditions, such as heart diseases, raised blood pressure, high cholesterolobesity, depression and diabetes. Anxiety may also cause sleep disturbances and poor work performance.

    Anxiety causes a rise in stress hormones and other responses along with a heightened inflammation affecting the whole body.

    Anxiety may cause the following symptoms:

    • Fear or uneasiness
    • Pounding or thumping heartbeat
    • Stomach discomfort
    • Restlessness, inability to stay calm and still
    • Pins and needles sensations
    • Aches and pains such as headaches, backaches
    • Difficulty in breathing or rapid breathing
    • Changes in sex drive

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    Cortisol And Weight Gain

    Chronic stress can add pounds as well as worries. The chemical cortisol is released during times of stress and is responsible for some of the physical changes stress can bring on, and some of these are unwanted, especially when stress lingers for weeks or months.

    Cortisol puts a high demand on your body’s resources. You need this in the face of danger. But in the modern world stress is more likely to be caused by money problems than dangerous animals. This causes problems that can lead to unwelcome weight gain.

    Since cortisol taxes your body’s energy stores, it also makes you hungry–especially for sugary and fatty foods that give you a quick burst of energy. If your stress isn’t prompting physical exercise in response, you’re likely to gain weight. What’s more, cortisol encourages your body to store excess energy as fat.

    How much cortisol causes weight gain likely varies from person to person. Tests on sheep show that some are more responsive to cortisol than others. These high-cortisol responders eat more than other sheep when stressed and also gain more weight. Some researchers think this could help identify people who are prone to stress-related obesity.

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